Dallas police using high-tech equipment to monitor crime-ridden stores

Dallas police have a new way to keep an eye on high crime areas without having an officer inside every convenience store.

The new six-month pilot program is called Starlight, and it’s expected to increase community and officer safety.

“This is something that we have discussed since the beginning of my tenure here in Dallas. And thanks to our partners at Safer Dallas, Motorola, members of the Dallas Police Department and our CIS, we’re seeing the labor of our fruits,” said Dallas Police Chief Reneé Hall.

Chief Hall said she’s confident Starlight will be a game-changer for the city of Dallas.

The program uses state-of-the-art software and cameras to potentially recognize something that might indicate a crime in progress – a camera being covered, sudden movements by those on camera and other actions.

Three stores in the pilot program are already equipped with cameras and a blue light indicating they being monitored.

Those stores include the 7-Eleven on East Ledbetter Road in Oak Cliff, the 7-Eleven on Lemmon Avenue in Oak Lawn and the Ferguson Food Mart at a Texaco station in East Dallas.

The Ferguson Food Mart was deemed a nuisance by the city one year ago.

“Before if we weren't present at the location, we would not be able to see the drug transaction or the prostitution that is taking place,” Chief Hall said. “Now, we see you.”

The two-fold Motorola technology connects hi-res high-speed real-time camera feeds to police, but there's more.

Officers will be able to see in real-time precisely what is happening at the businesses. They can dispatch someone to the scene if necessary.

Dallas police said the virtual patrol program will keep officers safe because they’ll know ahead of time what to expect before they get to the scene.

“So when a 911 call comes in from this Texaco gas station, camera feeds in the area will spin up and become available to the analyst at the real-time crime center back at DPD headquarters who then in return can provide real-time intelligence back to the responding units in the field,” explained Neil Thomas with Motorola Solutions.

The goal is to have better outcomes while reducing risks to officers.

“I couldn't be happier. I think it’s a great thing if it helps apprehend some of these suspects,” said Meadows Apartments co-owner Hudson Henley. “Because drug dealers bring the violence, and we want the violence to stop.”

Henley co-owns the adjacent Meadows Apartments. He's sued the city over its lack of response to calls for help over open-air drug deals and violence.

In 2018, Dallas sued Ferguson Food Mart’s owners to shut down their Texaco location in East Dallas after a security guard was shot. City attorneys cited 36 violent crimes in one year. There are now new owners who are part of the pilot program.

“They were extended an opportunity, and they chose to jump on that chance,” said Dallas Police Lt. James Lewis.  

Currently, the pilot program is being funded by the non-profit organization Safer Dallas. Businesses will eventually have to pay for the software and camera system. Police hope to keep the price under $4,000.