Police plan command change for Oak Lawn

By David Webb Staff Writer

Northwest Division to take over entertainment district



Keith Allen (left), Kevin Janse (right).

When the Dallas Police Department�s Northwest Division assumes responsibility for the Oak Lawn area from the Central Division on Sept. 1, the change will likely go unnoticed by most residents and business owners.

That�s the message police officers from the Northwest Division brought to the Oak Lawn Apartment Managers and Stakeholders Crimewatch meeting Wednesday, March 21. The division has started sending representatives to the monthly meeting in preparation for the transition. Chief of Police David Kunkle was scheduled to attend the meeting, but he was called away to attend a City Council executive session.

“You probably won�t notice any change as far as police service is concerned,” said Lt. David Pughes of the Northwest Division. “It will remain the same.”

But for police officials who have spent the past five years planning a citywide reconfiguration in connection with the opening of the new South Central Division substation at 1999 E. Camp Wisdom Road, the change will be an enormous one. The assignment of the Oak Lawn area to the Northwest Division is just one component of the reconfiguration, which will result in the city being carved up into seven police commands instead of the current six.

As a result, the Northwest Division will be gaining responsibility for the Oak Lawn entertainment district, and the Central Division will be losing it.

That’s good news for the Central Division, which currently must oversee four entertainment districts � Oak Lawn, Lower Greenville, Deep Ellum and West End. The Northwest Division now oversees only one entertainment district on Northwest Highway.

“Entertainment districts are labor intensive,” Pughes said. “That will be the biggest challenge for us, but it will be better because Central will be losing one.”

At the same time, the Northwest Division will be losing responsibility for a high-crime area in West Dallas that has significant violent crime activity, Pughes noted. The Oak Lawn area is affected more by property crime activity, such as automobile burglaries, he said.

Pughes said police officials expect the reconfiguration to result in improvements in police officer response times citywide.

“It shouldn’t have any negative impact,” Pughes said. �It should be a real positive move for the city.�

Pughes said he foresees no problems with Northwest Division officers adapting to the large number of LGBT residents they will encounter in Oak Lawn. He noted that gay and lesbian residents live all over Dallas so most police officers are already accustomed to interacting with them.

“I don’t think there will be any issue whatsoever,” Pughes said.

Rick Espaillat, a representative of Caven Enterprises, said he is optimistic about the reconfiguration’s potential to reduce police officers’ response times.

"If it is going to reduce response times, then I’m all for it," Espaillat said. "The only thing I’m concerned about is developing relations with the new police officers that will equal what we have now."

Pughes said Northwest Division police officers plan to continue meeting with Oak Lawn residents and business people in preparation for the transition. The Northwest Division and Central Division will cooperate fully to make the transition a smooth one, he said.

Senior Cpl. Kevin Janse, the interactive police officer who will be in charge of Oak Lawn, was introduced at the meeting by police officer Keith Allen, who is currently the interactive police officer for Oak Lawn. Janse promised to make himself available to the community.

Pughes said some officers who are currently working in the Central Division might transfer to the Northwest Division to continue working in Oak Lawn. If an officer appears not to be suited for duty in Oak Lawn, a transfer to another area might be needed, he said.

"We want to be sure we have the right people in the right places," Pughes said.

E-mail webb@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 23, 2007

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