Oak Lawn businesses start hate crime awareness campaign

Oak Lawn businesses start hate crime awareness campaign

OAK LAWN, Texas -- If you're headed out to a popular Oak Lawn bar or nightclub you'll likely see it before you even walk in the front door.

Posters started going up Thursday in windows of businesses along busy Cedar Springs emphasizing the importance of reporting crimes motivated by hate or bias.

The "Stay Proud: Be Loud" campaign posters state 266 hate crimes have been reported in Dallas since 2012 and adds 61-percent of bias crimes go unreported.

Rafael McDonnell with Resource Center says it is the exact type of awareness effort the neighborhood, with a large LGBT population, needs to see.

"Vigilance is constant," McDonnell said.  "A reminder like this campaign, can only help keep the bad guys away."

Oak Lawn battled more than a dozen attacks on gay men from the fall of 2015 through April 2016.  No arrests were made in any of the attacks, but increased patrols by Dallas Police and added security measures like additional cameras and better lighting dramatically reduced their frequency.

The campaign is sponsored in part by the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

Judy Shepard formed the foundation a few months after her 21-year old son was beaten and tied to a fence post in Laramie, Wyoming.  Matthew Shepard's horrific murder in 1998 became a galvanizing moment in drawing attention to crimes motivated by hate.

“We sure didn’t think 20 years later we’d still be doing it," Shepard said. "We thought people would forget.”

But she says she and her husband Dennis are in Texas this week because there is more work to do.

"The number of hate crimes and they’re happening in a supposedly more gay-friendly city in Texas is attracting attention, yeah,” Judy Shepard said.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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