Dallas church serving the homeless fears new street crime ordinance is overreaching

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DALLAS-- Walking down Young Street, you can tell there`s an issue there. You can hear the sirens, and see the flashing lights. However, there`s more to the story.

For forty years, First Presbyterian Church of Dallas has been helping the homeless through an outreach, Stewpot. The poor or homeless come to get medical care, food, clothes, or counseling. However, some wind up hanging out or spending the night on the street outside. Some of those people commit crimes. But, the church isn`t hiding that.

They say crimes don't happen inside their building, and they have been working with the police to keep the outside area from becoming a crime hot spot.

But, apparently the city doesn`t think that`s good enough! A new nuisance abatement ordinance, aimed at cleaning up Dallas streets is cracking down. It allows signs to be hung on properties identified as sites of "habitual criminal activity." Basically, it's shaming the property owners into addressing the crime issue.

The church has a problem with that. In a speech to the city, church leader Bill Cobb says they are against the ordinance. "The proposed ordinance is overly broad." he says. "It takes a public nuisance concept aimed at brothels, flop houses and drug dens, and applies them to our church (and others), whose religious calling places it on the front lines of service and ministry to the homeless and poor..."

While they believe the heightened awareness of crime is a good thing for the community, they worry the ordinance is an overreach. Saying they simply want to keep serving a population that's not just going to go away.

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