Pearnetta Perry just wants her neighborhood back. The 58-year old mother and grandmother spoke before Dallas City Council on Wednesday urging support for stricter regulation on paraphernalia shops after the murder of a man near her home last month.
"I don’t know who to go to now," Perry said. "I tell everybody I’m ready to protest to get my community back.”
Perry lives at the White Rock Hills Townhomes on in the 7200 block of Ferguson, just north of I-30 in east Dallas.
On March 4, while she and her neighbors picked up trash and litter as part of a service project, a Jerrell Dilworth was shot inside a car and dumped in the parking lot of the complex.
"I covered that man up, he got shot in front of my house," she told the council. "I covered him up so my children wouldn’t see it.”
Two men were arrested a short time later and charged in the murder. According to an arrest affidavit, Dilworth met the two men out The Tobacco Shop at 7300 Ferguson for a "drug transaction", according to Dallas Police.
The unregulated business sits shares a parking lot with the complex.
Councilmembers on Wednesday heard details of a city crafted plan to increase regulation of so-called paraphernalia shops by requiring them to register with DPD and add a variety of safety features already required of convenience stores.
And for the first time, Dallas city code will define paraphernalia shops as "an establishment that displays or offers for sale items, equipment or products commonly used for the ingestion, inhalation, preparation or injection of tobacco or illegal substances."
The move comes after an outbreak of synthetic marijuana overdoses in the West End district of downtown Dallas in early 2016.
While existing shops will have to register and come into compliance, new shops will be restricted to spaces more than 1000 feet from a school or residential district and 1500 feet from another paraphernalia shop.
Council member Rickey Callahan took an active role crafting the regulation, telling colleagues on Wednesday how much he has learned about what he called a "vice" business often seen in his Pleasant Grove and southeast Dallas district.
He said he helped close three of the businesses in his district which attract gambling, prostitution and illegal drug activity, according to DPD.
Many of the businesses present as convenience stores, according to Callahan.
"You don’t hardly find any inventory at all," Callahan said. "You may find a few things hanging on the wall.”
Matthew Gallagher says that characterization is unfair.
The 31-year old operator of the shop cited in the Dilworth murder affidavit says his smoke shop doesn't sell paraphernalia. He says he will go along with what the city is asking, but worries about the upfront costs to meet the requirement.
"“If they want me to put height markers in, if they want me to put a drop box and a panic button – if that’s what we got to do – we’re going to do that," Gallagher said. "Then what? What’s the problem going to be then?”
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