(To Left: Officer Brian Martinez, Elva Friesenhahn - El Tivoli Place Neighborhood Association President, Chris Ray - Crime Watch Chairperson for El Tivoli Place and neighbors attending a recent meeting.)
Dallas Police Officer Cyrus Zafrani has helped the historical El Tivoli Place community grow into a safe and thriving neighborhood in Oak Cliff. He recently alerted Crime Watch Chairperson & Old Oak Cliff Conservation League Neighborhood Representative, Chris Ray, about an essay competition sponsored by the Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity & Epic Dallas. Chris' essay was selected as a winner along with a handful of others, and El Tivoli Place N.A. was awarded a $500 check for neighborhood beautification.
Essay by Chris Ray:
My wife and I shared the typical experience people have when they come to Dallas; suburbs with the same stores repeated over and over, cookie cutter homes & apartments made of basic cheap materials and neighbors we never met. That was before Oak Cliff.
We found a wonderful looking house available for rent, and at the last second, decided to risk it. It was located in a historic neighborhood Southwest of downtown Dallas called El Tivoli Place. You hear stories about this part of town, and while there may be more diversity and points of view, there is also life; real life. We quickly fell in love with our neighbors, with the chickens being raised next door and the hard working families that have made a home here.
At first, Oak Cliff takes some getting used to. You may go to a small shop to get farm-raised groceries instead of going to a supermarket; you may have to try each small unique restaurant to find what you like instead of trusting in chains and you may hear the occasional gunshot at night.
We weren't sure what to think of the gunshots and the loud bass-booming cars zooming by. We could either move or not let people like that ruin such a wonderful chance for real community. We chose to confront it, and thankfully so did the rest of the neighborhood.
Within a year of moving here, I became Chairperson for Crime Watch, and my wife and I host meetings in our home every month. We have coffee and conversations with Officers who actually care about us and know us. Through face-to-face interaction and technology like Nextdoor, we have seen drastic changes in Crime.
Up-to-the-minute information has helped Police stop many crimes while they were being perpetrated, or have allowed them to identify trends in order to address issues. Utilizing intelligence shared through Nextdoor, email and frequent calls to 911, Dallas Police have responded quickly and appropriately. Our Nextdoor has now grown to 65 households, and we have a strong presence on every street.
Pride in our neighborhood has increased noticeably, to the point that our chief concerns have turned from crime prevention to code violations. With such a diverse community on the verge of seeing true revitalization in our immediate area, more effective sharing of information when it comes to codes and laws pertaining to having a safe and more attractive neighborhood would change everything.
We are currently raising funds to purchase land and build a community gathering place at one of the landmarks in the heart of El Tivoli Place. This will be a symbol of what has been achieved by the city and its people working together to make Dallas a better place. Effective information and communication platforms have allowed El Tivoli to remain and continue to grow as an oasis from the mundane, and a place where people truly live.