Mayor Johnson announces $100k investment in Builders of Hope CDC’s public safety initiative

“Blight remediation is a proven strategy for crime reduction,” the mayor said.

DALLAS — Mayor Eric Johnson this week announced that the Safe Communities Fund — a private philanthropic fund created by the mayor — has awarded a $100,000 grant to support a new public safety initiative in the Mill City neighborhood.

Builders of Hope — a nationally recognized Community Development Corporation — is leading the initiative, which aims to address abandoned lots and buildings through a block-by-block remediation approach. The initiative is in line with the Mayor’s Task Force on Safe Communities’ recommendations to reduce violent crime in Dallas.

“Public safety is our top priority, but it is not solely the responsibility of law enforcement,” Mayor Johnson said. “To achieve our goal of becoming the safest major city in the United States, we need the assistance of community-based efforts such as this one. Blight remediation is a proven strategy for crime reduction, and I firmly believe this investment in a strong — but historically underserved and overlooked — community will pay dividends for our entire city. I am grateful to Builders of Hope for leading this project, and I hope we can replicate it in other parts of our city as we continue to strive to build safer communities.”

The grant marks the latest in a long series of public safety policies and initiatives led by Mayor Johnson. The Safe Communities Fund — a privately raised fund sponsored by the Communities Foundation of Texas — was established in 2020 to support strategies developed by the Mayor’s Task Force on Safe Communities, a group that included public safety experts, academic thought partners, community advocates, and faith leaders. Mayor Johnson created the Task Force shortly after he took office in 2019. The mayor charged the Task Force members with researching and recommending data-driven non-policing strategies to prevent and deter violence in Dallas.

The Task Force identified four data-driven strategies that have proven to reduce violence in other U.S. cities, including “remediating blighted buildings and abandoned lots in high-violence locations.” Academic research suggests that initiatives that address the built environment of a neighborhood can substantially decrease crime and save taxpayers’ money at a relatively low cost.

The Dallas City Council agreed to fund the mayor’s strategies — and a new Office of Integrated Public Safety Solutions to implement them — in the Fiscal Year 2020–21 budget. Funding has been included in every annual budget since then. The mayor has also been pursuing policy changes that are meant to enhance the city’s targeted blight remediation efforts this year.

Data based on a 2018 study of a blight remediation effort in Philadelphia found that neighborhoods where vacant lots were cleaned up experienced a 29% reduction in gun violence, a 22% decrease in burglaries, and 30% drop in nuisances such as noise complaints and illegal dumping.

The initiative’s overall goals include:

  • Reducing the risk of violent crimes from occurring in the community;
  • Reducing the amount of crime that occurs in the community over the course of the initiative;
  • Increasing resident satisfaction with the quality and condition of their neighborhood; and
  • Providing an efficient alternative to the city’s current 311/Code Compliance model for addressing blight.

Builders of Hope has established a 30-year track record of cultivating transformation in historically disinvested communities in Dallas through building quality affordable housing and vibrant communities. The nonprofit has partnered on this initiative with the Mill City Community Association, the Child Poverty Action Lab, Zeal Analytics & Development Services, the Office of Integrated Public Safety Solutions, South Side Quarter Development Corporation and The Muse Family Foundation.

Mill City has struggled with criminal activity that presents an ongoing challenge to the neighborhood and its residents. Since 2017, in the two census tracts that make up Mill City — home to more than 5,000 households — the Dallas Police Department has reported more than 400 theft offenses and more than 400 property destruction offenses, nearly 300 burglaries, almost 200 motor vehicle theft cases, more than 100 robberies and over 550 assaults documented.

James Armstrong, President & CEO of Builders of Hope, said investments into grassroots initiatives such as this one are the key to building a more equitable city.

“Like housing, public safety is a cornerstone of a healthy thriving neighborhood,” Armstrong said. “And the more we can invest in non-enforcement solutions, the quicker we’ll see movement on improved public safety,”

Additional funders of this work include the Communities Foundation of Texas and the Muse Family Foundation. Dallas City Councilmember Adam Bazaldua also announced he is contributing $50,000 of his discretionary American Rescue Plan Act funds to the initiative.

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Tristan Hallman

Tristan Hallman

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Chief of Policy and Communications for Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson