Victimizing the Victim

By Johnnie Belle Reagan

Today the new Dallas District Attorney, John Creuzot, announced that he was doing away with 1000 cases.  Dallas is no longer going to be in the business of prosecuting petty crimes, such as, shop lifting, small amounts of marijuana possession and criminal trespassing. Although in contrast Dallas is going after property owner where these crimes take place in Civil Court. Yes, they are coming after YOU, the property owners.  This equates to the victim being charged with violation after they are already being victimized by criminals. 

This was brought to my attention by two lawsuits that are currently playing out.  I made the point in a recent article about the two Dallas carwashes that have had Civil Lawsuits filed against them based on criminal activity taking place on the property.  It does not help that both of the carwashes are located in high crime districts.  Rather than the City of Dallas Police arresting the violators, they stakeout the property takes notes and pictures of crimes they see committed and report back to City Hall.  How about arrest someone?  I digress…

I don’t see these businesses attracting crimes or contributing to crime.  It has never been a crime to have a clean car, use a carwash, visit at a carwash or even have a conversation on carwash property.  I also don’t see the crime going away in South East Dallas once the carwashes are gone.  That is just ludicrous way of thinking.  Well, maybe it will go away in the sense it is no long prosecuted.

I received an email link to the April 8, 2019 City of Palestine Council Meeting along with a link to another Palestine Herald Press article.   In the article it refers to a heated debate that the City Council was having about purchasing $20,000-dollar camera to catch illegal trash dumping.  Two of the Council Members Mitchell Jordan District 2 and Larissa Loveless District 1 had a hostile interaction when Jordan suggested that the “Rich” (referring to District 1) didn’t have to deal with illegal dumping and crime. 

While that interaction was amusing to watch it was the rest of the debate that really got my interest.  Both the Mayor Steve Presley and Councilman Joe Baxter of District 4 suggested that the property owners be sent violations.  They go on to suggest that if the property owners do not comply the City will clean it up and file liens and eventually foreclosing on the property and becoming the owner.  The City becoming the owner of more property seems ridiculous.  According to Anderson County Appraisal District they already own over 100 properties.   That is 100 pieces of property taken off the tax rolls and onto the burden of the tax payers, after all someone has to maintain them. 

**I want to clearly note here that Mitchell Jordan’s response to Presley and Baxter’s suggestion was, “that is a good idea, but”.  Well, if any of these Council members open up the City of Palestine’s Charter they can clearly read that is not an idea, it is the procedure and has been for YEARS.**

So, try to put yourself in the place of any of these business owners.  Now you can’t even call or report a crime in fear that you will be held responsible or charged with a violation yourself.  Victimizing the victim.   That is exactly what happened in Dale Davenport’s case when he went before City Council a stack of incident reports was placed in front of the Council as proof of the problem.  I wonder how his property compares to the neighboring property or the neighborhood itself.  I’m not sure that you could ever convince me that carwashes cause crime or if the lot was left empty or abandoned that crime would cease to exist.

Recently the ACLU took on case similar to these.  Some Cities within the United States have actually adopted nuisance ordinances against businesses that attract crime.  These businesses mainly consist of Motels and low-income apartments. Of interest to the ACLU is not the property rights of the owners but the fact that owners in an effort to reduce the calls to police evict tenants that pose a problem.  You would like to believe that you are eradicating drug deals and gang members but instead the ACLU says that these laws are keeping victims from reporting domestic violence, causing the victim to stay with an abuser and not call police in fear of eviction. 

Last I checked crimes are punishable.  It is still a crime to litter, illegally dump trash, loiter in non-loitering areas when a sign is posted and trespass.  It is still a crime to deal illegal drugs even if it is on carwash property.  It is still a crime to murder, yes, I said murder, no matter where it occurred.  There was a reported murder at one of the South Dallas carwashes.  I think no littering, not dumping, no domestic violence, no loitering, no drug dealing, no trespassing and no murder goes without saying anywhere you are located.  Or maybe one more time with feeling, the POLICE need to do their job to protect and serve, I don’t think that is asking too much after all we pay their salaries.

From the ACLU:

While proponents of nuisance ordinances argue they are necessary to deter crime, in practice they undermine public safety and punish innocent people – especially vulnerable people who have fewer resources. Nuisance ordinances give rise to violations of the First Amendment right to petition the government, due process guarantees, and federal and state prohibitions against housing discrimination.

Once again, we find ourselves in the same situation as with Texas Municipal League lobbying Texas law makers in Austin not to pass legislature that lowers property taxes, they are using our tax dollars against us.  The Municipality run off of the sales and property taxes they collect from the residents.   I believe that each one of us should be disgusted at this new trend in biting the hand that feeds you.   We should be able to have an expectation that our public servants do just that serve the public instead they are victimizing the victim for crimes they don’t even find important enough to prosecute.

Link to the City Council Meeting:  You only need to watch the very end. At the 2:34 mark the meltdown begins