Jessica Oeffner lives in Deep Ellum.
“I love the people,” she said. “It's actually a neighborhood.”
One day a week, the Dallas attorney works at Bowls and Tacos just for the fun of it. She feels safe in the off-beat urban community that is Deep Ellum.
“I walk everywhere, both alone and with friends, and stay off my phone and stay alert and pay attention to what's going on around me,” she said.
The rape of a 26-year-old woman as she walked to her car early Sunday morning near the Baylor Medical Center DART station has the neighborhood concerned.
The victim’s father said she had just left a Deep Ellum establishment when she was jumped from behind and choked. She was badly bruised from the attack and emotionally traumatized, he said.
She described her attacker as a Hispanic male, wearing glasses, with very short hair. He was overweight and less than 5 feet 9 inches tall.
No arrests have been made.
It’s the latest attack in Deep Ellum to draw attention.
Last month, Deep Ellum bartender Pierre Mora was beaten, robbed and carjacked in Deep Ellum. He posted pictures of himself on Facebook after the attack. He's still recovering.
Community members frequently post on the neighborhood’s Deep Ellum Community Watch Facebook page. It’s a place where business owners and residents can talk about security concerns. They will often discuss suspicious characters to be wary of in their establishments.
Hours after the rape, posters to the page began talking about creating a special phone line for patrons needing an escort in the entertainment district.
Sam Wynne, a Deep Ellum business owner, is working with others on the idea.
“A lot of times at 2 a.m., we're sober because we're still at work and it's good to have a sober person to walk with,” he said. “This is our neighborhood and we try our best to take charge of it and own it and keep people safe down here."
Wynne opened Brain Dead Brewing about two years ago. His new diner, Bowls and Tacos, opened in an old gas station about a month ago.
The Deep Ellum Foundation, with contributions from businesses, is spending about $400,000 on security. They pay for private security during the day. Last month, they began hiring 10 off-duty police officers to patrol the late hours Friday and Saturday nights.
“We're always concerned when any kind of situation like that happens and it's exactly what we're trying to prevent,” said Jonathon Hetzel, president of the Deep Ellum Foundation. “We still feel that the neighborhood is generally safe, but we still need to do what we can prevent things from happening.”
Given the tens of thousands of people that converge on the neighborhood every weekend, Hetzel says the neighborhood is safe and the incidents of violent crime are relatively rare.
Wynne and others are committed to making the sure the neighborhood’s bad history doesn’t repeat itself.
“The Deep Ellum of the past that had a bad reputation is a very different Deep Ellum than this one,” he said.