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This Dallas neighborhood is bravely facing its crime and code compliance struggles

Ruby Nealon thinks fondly of the days when Dixon Circle was known as Sunny Acres.

There were no paved roads in the early 1960s when Nealon and her family moved into a one-story home in this Dallas neighborhood near Fair Park. Boxed in by railroad tracks to the west and a creek to the east, the community felt like the country, yet neighbors were close and the kids on Nealon’s street played together outside.

The fellowship that grew among the residents also gave their predominately Black neighborhood a voice. In 1970, a community group petitioned Dallas ISD to rezone neighborhood kids from an overcrowded elementary school to a half-filled, all-white school that was just as close. And in the 1990s, a crime watch developed into a neighborhood association that turned a drug house into a small community center.

It didn’t last. As neighborhood leaders died and their children moved away, Sunny Acres fell silent. Dallasites now know it as Dixon Circle, so named after a loop of worn-out apartments on the northern end of the neighborhood. Neighbors groan about yards littered with junk next to their tidy homes and drug slinging and gunfights on their streets.

Many people in Dixon Circle still care deeply about their community, and we’re happy to report that a new neighborhood association is forming. Newcomer Pamela Grayson, a local activist with a doctorate in educational leadership who moved to the neighborhood less than a year ago, is rallying her neighbors, especially long-timers like Nealon, to command the attention of City Hall for better services and policing.

Grayson is encouraging residents with deeper roots in Dixon Circle to take the neighborhood association’s main leadership roles. She has volunteered to serve as secretary.

The group began meeting this summer. They’ve already hosted a trash cleanup organization, a group of violence interrupters working with the city to defuse tensions that lead to killings, and Fair Park First, the nonprofit that will manage the city’s redeveloped fairgrounds.

Neighbors also welcomed the neighborhood police officer, his supervisor and a few other cops. Grayson had a pointed question for the officer: “How come we never see you?”

But the questions also came with a jar of candy and an invitation for police to report to the group quarterly. Residents wanted to know how best to reach their neighborhood officer, which sparked a discussion about how older residents without email or internet can get through to the officer.

The meeting shined a light on the divide between Dixon Circle and the Dallas Police Department, but it also underscored why the neighborhood association is so badly needed. Residents are advocating for themselves and creating a channel that can lead to better communication with police.

Grayson said she looked nearby to the Dolphin Heights Neighborhood Association for guidance — a wise move. That group is a prime example of why neighborhood associations matter.

Led by longtime resident Anna Hill, the Dolphin Heights organization began as a crime watch group in 2004, when that neighborhood was struggling with drugs and gang activity. It evolved into a neighborhood association whose indefatigable drive to fix Dolphin Heights’ problems captured the attention of the City Council and city staff. The group’s efforts tamped down the crime rate and cleaned up the community.

Dolphin Heights’ story is inspiring, but Hill doesn’t sugarcoat the colossal, sustained push that it takes to turn a neighborhood around. Hill told us it’s the kind of work that requires residents to push aside their differences with police and politicians for the sake of the neighborhood.

Like Dixon Circle, the once predominantly Black community of Dolphin Heights has become largely Hispanic. Hill said she went door to door to enlist Hispanic neighbors to join the neighborhood association. It is vital that the whole community feel included and invested.

We hope Grayson and her neighbors succeed in growing their group and maintaining the momentum. Dixon Circle is raising its voice again, and City Hall must listen.


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