Dallas Crime Hits Million Dollar Neighborhoods

Preston Forest shopping center in Dallas, Tex.Hold on to your bling, ladies. Crime in Dallas is now infiltrating even the very best neighborhoods. Million-dollar homeowners beware.

Several weeks ago, a Dallas woman did what she does about three times a week: run to the local Whole Foods market at the Preston Forest Shopping Center (left) near North Dallas. She was just a few miles from her estate home in Preston Hollow, one of Dallas' priciest neighborhoods. (This time she didn't run into George and Laura Bush, who also shop there.)

Like always, she'd buy a few groceries and take them to her car. But this evening, as she was tucking an orchid between the milk cartons on her front seat, a stranger stopped by to offer help. She declined graciously and offered him her shopping basket. The stranger, who looked no older than 20, grabbed the basket, slammed it into the woman, threw her down on the pavement and shoved her face into the asphalt. He stole a 7.5 carat, $90,000 diamond ring from her finger, her designer sunglasses and a faux-diamond necklace from her throat. Then he hopped into a white Jaguar getaway car.
Bejeweled Dallas residents are being targeted all over the high-end North Dallas neighborhoods. Several people have been held up leaving NorthPark Center, one of the city's most affluent shopping centers housing Barneys, Nordstroms and Neiman Marcus, and at the equally glitzy Dallas Galleria. Anecdotal stories of women being robbed at gunpoint from perpetrators in expensive autos at other high-end shopping centers abound.

One Dallas Real Estate agent recently had a gun pressed to her chest while talking in a car with a fellow agent after a party -- all this, despite reports that Dallas crime has actually decreased. (We are now merely the second most-crime-ridden city in the nation, having given up our number one spot to San Antonio.) In fact, society women in Dallas now complain that if they want to wear one ounce of bling or a stitch of couture, their must-have new accessory is a bodyguard.

Homeowners are asking, will this affect my property value? In a buyer's market where sellers are lowering prices by 10 to 30 percent, could shopping-center crime make it worse?

Not if the city takes prompt action, said veteran Dallas real estate appraiser D.W. Skelton. If another woman was attacked, Skelton suggested, Whole Foods should put up a police tower just like the one at the State Fair of Texas.

Ten years ago the annual State Fair of Texas was one of the most crime-ridden venues in town. As a result, attendance decreased, but the city added patrols and police towers to take the Fair back from the criminals.

The presence of armed police officers in a tower is a big deterrent to crime, Skelton said, adding that they work far better than surveillance cameras.

And in fact, the police tower went up in the Preston Forest Shopping Center, two days after the attack. Plainclothes and uniformed police security was doubled, and more security cameras were added. Of course, the commercial landlord and the stores will absorb the initial cost, eventually passing it onto the consumers. Which means, not only will the million dollar neighborhood be less secure than it used to be, but now living there will cost even more.
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