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LAKE HIGHLANDS -- For weeks this spring, Dallas police officers worked around the clock to capture a serial rapist targeting the Lake Highlands neighborhood.

With the alleged rapist off the streets, relieved residents wanted to thank officers for their tireless efforts. Now, a few months later, their gift of gratitude is almost ready to show off.

When officers in the Northeast Police Division need a break from the beat at their headquarters in the 9900 block of E. Northwest Hwy, they go to a room in the back to watch TV or grab a meal. It's cozy and fresh now, but for years the break room was almost as dull and dirty as some of the crime ridden areas they patrol.

'The carpeting was stained,' said Deputy Chief Andy Acord. 'Some of the furniture was so old it was beginning to smell and it was stained.'

Now the room has brand new tile floors, freshly painted walls, and furniture all donated by members of the Lake Highlands Estates Neighborhood Association (LHENA).

For more than a month, between Feb. 22 and March 19, many women in Lake Highlands lived in fear. During that time. three women were raped in their own homes.

The northeast division stepped up patrols. Mounted officers and cruisers were on neighborhood streets 24-hours-a-day and seven-days-a-week until police made an arrest in April.

The association wanted to show its appreciation.

'We thought about having a barbecue or something,' said LHENA President Keith Ross, 'but this is something that will last, and that the officers will be able to enjoy for a long, long time.'

Ross estimates the makeover cost a little more than $5,000.

There's still more work to be done in the kitchen. New cabinets and microwaves will be installed.

'I can tell you even though it's not quite done yet, the officers are thoroughly enjoying it,' Acord said.

'We just wanted to return something back to the community, and this is a good start,' said Bob Hejl, another member of the association who enlisted other volunteers to help with the project.

Now every time an officer has a seat or sits at a table, they will be reminded of the respect they've earned.

E-mail cwade@wfaa.com

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