Las Vegas Trail, the impoverished stretch on the west side of Fort Worth that has gradually given way to generational poverty, violent crime and low-income apartment complexes that can serve as havens for drug pushers, has become a focus for city officials, who want to implement steps to revitalize it.
On Monday, Mayor Betsy Price joined a handful of city leaders, including new District 3 Councilman Brian Byrd — whose office is in the process of assembling a Las Vegas Trail task force — for a one-hour bus tour through the area directed by Fort Worth neighborhood patrol officer Richard Grinalds. Others on the tour included Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, Fire Chief Rudy Jackson, Assistant City Manager Valerie Washington and Neighborhood Services staffers.
Since winning the May election, Byrd has shown an interest in stemming the two-decades-long decay of Las Vegas Trail where broken families, rampant addiction, young, single mothers, malnourished children and overcrowded elementary schools are realities of daily life. The mostly unseen blight was detailed in a recent Star-Telegram special report on child abuse.
During the tour, Grinalds pointed out frequent hotspots for violent crime — noting many of his colleagues refer to the corner of Las Vegas Trail and Calmont Avenue as the “Four Corners of Hell.” They include convenience stores that have failed health inspections and apartment complexes and motels that consistently violate code compliance and turn a blind eye to criminal activity. Grinalds also noted a few encouraging signs for improvement.
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The first step, Price said, was gathering city leaders together to gain a better understanding of the problems.
“Everybody’s got to come to the table: The churches, the neighbors, the businesses who are there, the landlords who own these properties have all got to come and be willing to work,” Price said. “It’s to the advantage of all. The proverbial rising tide floats all boats.”
Byrd, who inherited the area from former Councilman Zim Zimmerman, said he hopes to have his task force assembled and meeting by November. He wants to bring together nonprofit and government agencies, churches and businesses that have a vested interest in the area.
“It just needs a touch of leadership in there,” said Byrd, who is advocating a crosswalk assistance program to bring more crossing guards to help the heavy flow of elementary school students who are often without adult supervision to cross the four lanes of Las Vegas Trail to reach their apartments.
He also said city attorneys are working with police to gather data on each apartment complex “so we know who’s staying in code and who’s not.”
“There is a lot of crime in the area,” Byrd continued. “If they’re not doing something to mitigate that, then there are legal recourses we have to lean on.”
Police Lt. Kirk Driver, who joined the tour, is preparing to implement an unorthodox plan called the “Leveraging Project” designed to bring social services and job training to residents of Las Vegas Trail apartment complexes. Another police venture, a hopeful crime deterrent, will be the installation of 192 cameras around the city, including an undetermined number in the Las Vegas Trail area, Fitzgerald said.
“My entire city in Allentown (Pa.) was wired up the same way and we had a tremendous amount of success solving a lot of violent crimes, deterring crimes,” Fitzgerald said.
Decreasing the area’s high crime rate is essential to supporting businesses, and it appears Las Vegas Trail is starting to show signs of attracting new businesses. Grinalds pointed to a Family Dollar store that will soon break ground on Calmont Avenue, across the street from the Western Hills Primary School, and a QT gas station on Las Vegas Trail between Interstate 30 and Calmont Avenue. Grinalds also said a long-vacant Arby’s on the south part of Las Vegas Trail is now under contract.
“Two weeks ago I had two phone calls from seven investors wanting to buy properties along Las Vegas Trail,” Grinalds said. “This area is getting interest from people with some pockets, so things are looking up.”
At least it’s a start for an area desperately in need of solutions.
“It’ll be slow,” Price said of reversing current negative trends. “It’s like that proverbial balloon, you push one side in, it bulges somewhere else. But if you can put enough resources on it, you can begin to contain that.”