Each month, the Advocate visits with Sgt. Michael Gurley, Sr. Cpl. Edward Vasquez and Sr. Cpl. Rick Janich of the East Dallas Storefront police station, 1327 N. Peak Street (670-5523). Three police officers and five community service workers are employed at the Storefront, which coordinates multilingual services ranging from tutoring to crime prevention. The Storefront is best-known for its bicycle patrol officers, who pedal the streets of East Dallas weekdays. The City of Dallas funds the Storefronts, but numerous volunteers and organizations provide both hours and funds to develop special programs aimed at building better relations among police officers and neighborhoods.
Advocate: Now, you guys primarily work during the day, right? Do you ever ride at night, or is that even a good idea?
Mike: The reason we don’t ride at night is, basically, manpower. We don’t have enough people to do both shifts. But now that the (bicycle) program is expanding, that might change. We’re in the process of developing two other (bicycle) divisions, Northwest and Northeast. And we have the flexibility to vary our shift.
Ed: I wouldn’t want to be riding at night anyway. I’d rather be in a car. That’s when people ride around drinking, shooting guns. It’s not only that we’re not all that visible to them, they’re not visible to us either.
Rick: Anytime you get someone backed into a corner, they react. But with a bike, you can be on someone before they know it, and before we know it. And that’s when things can happen.
Mike: Here’s an example: We made a cocaine arrest the other day. We came around the corner, in full view of this woman, and she didn’t see us. We were this close (gestures and indicates about 12 inches), and there she was. She decided to run through an apartment complex, and when she came out the other end, there Rick was. She just couldn’t get away, and she never really knew what happened.
(Sgt. Tom Woods, a bicycle officer with the Denton Police Department, was visiting the Storefront and also attended lunch.)
Tom: We’ve had death threats already. We had a drive-by shooting recently, and the bicycle officers think they know who did it. We just don’t have the evidence yet. But we think the suspect called up the department and threatened two officers by name.
Advocate: Did the threat have anything to do with biking?
Tom: Well, the bike officers, they’re in the community, and they are known by name. This one guy came up to us and said: You know, they’re going to pick you off one by one. Well, who knows how serious these guys are?
Advocate: Have bicycle officers in Dallas received similar threats?
Mike: Not that I know of. We don’t have sniper attacks on officers, at least, it doesn’t happen often. If they shoot at us on a bike, that would be a rare situation. Most of the time, when an officer is shot, he’s away from a vehicle. How you get to a call doesn’t make any difference (in terms of personal risk), I don’t think.
Really, one of the advantages of the bikes is that you get to know a lot of the apartment managers, and they’re helpful. One guy comes by the Storefront, and he lets us know about problems we can deal with. And we can let him know what we’ve seen, who’s been hanging around his building. And that’s what we should be doing, all working toward a common goal.
Advocate: Are there any areas of East Dallas and Lakewood where you wouldn’t patrol on a bike?
Advocate: There must be some areas that are worse than others.
Mike: Well, Garrett Park has had a big gang problem. They made six arrests there the other night, and all of them were kids, and they all had guns. That’s one area we watch, apartment complexes, that’s one area you’ve got to watch because they’re a perfect cover for drug dealers. The constant foot traffic of an apartment complex makes drug trafficking easier.
Another example: Prairie and Reiger, we shut down a drug house there a week and a half ago. It was boarded up, the whole bit. But when you knock one (drug house) out, they’ll just set up another one.
Advocate: The Dallas Observer recently ran a story about the “long, hot summer” of crime that at least the Observer writer was expecting here in Dallas. He also seemed to believe that Chief Rathburn’s Los Angeles experience wasn’t going to be positive for Dallas, that we can expect increased police violence against civilians. Any comments?
Rick: Well, the chief wants everybody treated equally.
Ed: You can take aggressive action without being abusive.
Mike: He’s already said that if you (a police officer) come into his office on a physical abuse complaint, even a verbal abuse, he’s going to take swift action.
Ed: Each arrest is different.
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