DALLAS - Not long ago, few would have thought it safe to stroll the streets of the Cedars neighborhood just south of downtown.
But the past few years, Michael Przekwas and Brad Friedman took a chance. Not just moving to and helping to rehab problem properties in the Cedars, but turning a string of vacant lots into park space.
"We got the neighbors, we got the neighborhood cops, we took two weekends and we cleaned it up," Friedman said.
About the only problem they can't seem to solve is a handful of petty thieves. One of whom, Friedman caught in the act a few weeks ago.
"He was carrying two big giant tool cases," Friedman said. "I called the cops, then got in my car and started following him."
The police caught and arrested the suspect, Anthony Reed, 37. The neighbors and police all know him.
His rap sheet, they say, is impressive - multiple convictions for assault, aggravated assault, theft, burglary, possession and prostitution.
"The bottom line is, he's about to get out again in a few days," Friedman said last November. "We are trying to get with the judge to testify against him to say, 'Keep this guy in.'"
In the past, Reed and other petty offenders known to the Cedars residents were getting released by judges who were hoping to rehabilitate them or keep them from clogging the jails. They say Dallas police are equally frustrated.
"The cops take them off the street," Friedman said. “[Then] they find out that the judge is letting them back out. Two days later they are back out here again, the cops have to do the same thing two days later."
Another neighborhood burglar is Ricky Douglas. Douglas has 15 convictions on mostly petty charges. He was arrested again in November for allegedly stealing copper at a building just down the street.
Ordinarily offenders like Douglas and Reed are flagged by police and the Dallas County District Attorney, labeled as "high-impact offenders" and targeted for longer state jail sentences.
Another such offender is Eddy Sanchez. He also has 15 convictions. The latest was this past August for attempted burglary.
"Mr. Sanchez was one we had marked as an impact offender,” said First Assistant District Attorney David Alex. "We were recommending not just state jail time, but penitentiary time, because of his history. The judge in that case ended up basically giving that guy his back time and he was out on the street."
As for Anthony Reed, prosecutors asked the judge in the case, Judge Teresa Hawthorne, to send Reed to prison for nine months for his latest alleged offense. Judge Hawthorne reportedly rejected it and recommended a mental health evaluation.
But after neighbors and News 8 showed up in her court on the day of the sentencing, Hawthorne apparently reversed course, and sentenced Reed to nine months in prison. Hawthorne, who recently made news when she declared the death penalty unconstitutional, did not return our phone calls for comment.
Presiding Judge John Ovard, in defense of all judges, says many factors contribute to a decision not to incarcerate.
"The age of a defendant, the rehabilitation, do they have a mental deformity or illness, are there family considerations, [and] drugs play an enormous impact into all areas of the crime," Ovard said.
But he and prosecutors both believe judges might be less likely to grease the revolving door if more victims demand their voices be heard.
"The cops are trying to help us, but everybody on the judicial side - I don't think they understand what the neighbors go through when they let these people back out again," Friedman said.
This past summer, Dallas County Commissioners approved the hiring of five new prosecutors to handle the high-impact offender cases, according to David Alex.