A controversy is swirling over a car wash in South Dallas that some say is a magnet for drug dealers. Police have shut down the location on two recent consecutive Sundays over security concerns, and an employee even admitted to a local newspaper reporter that drug deals are a regular occurrence.
But some say the pressure on Jim’s Car Wash isn’t fair and that the police and the Dallas Morning News are teaming up to drive him out of business. The local alternative paper, the Dallas Observer, wrote that other nearby establishments — including a community center, supermarket, and two gas stations — had similar frequency of criminal activity, yet “I am not aware of the Morning News ever editorializing to the effect that the Minyard (supermarket) store needs to be barricaded and run out of business,” the author wrote.
The owner of Jim’s Car Wash, Dale Davenport, says business has slowed since politicians, reporters, and police began to clamp down on crime there. And on a recent morning, employees were sitting around with no cars to wash, according to a member of the Morning News editorial board who went to the car wash. His exchange with the employees went like this:
Has there been illicit drug-sale activity on the grounds? I pointed to a house a block away and said: From what I’ve witnessed, the drugs are stashed in that house over there. The folks who sell go back and forth from the house, get what they need, and bring it back to the car wash to conduct their business. They sit on chairs and a couch that they had dragged under the covered area at the back of the car wash. Am I correct?
“That would not be inaccurate,” said one of the car washers. Another nodded his head in agreement. They disputed my characterization that the couch is there all the time whenever I drive by, which is about once every three weeks. But they conceded that, yes, the couch does come and go depending on the need for relaxation during a hard day of selling drugs.
Later in his piece, he added that when the mayor came to check out the scene, his security detail would not let him get out of the car. Yet according to the Observer, Davenport has found support for his cause in the Texas Legislature:
Davenport went to the Legislature in 2004 on the advice of friends in law enforcement after his repeated attempts at cooperating with Dallas police hit a brick wall. At that time the city was pressuring Davenport to hire expensive private guards from a company owned by City Council member James Fantroy, now dead, who was later convicted of embezzlement and theft. The chairman of a Texas House investigative committee eventually compared the city of Dallas’ treatment of Davenport to an organized extortion ring.
So there seem to be two convincing arguments. There seems to be a lot of overt drug activity going on at the car wash, based on the reporting from the Morning News, which is, of course, dangerous and unacceptable. But it also doesn’t seem to be any worse than the area around it, and the owner doesn’t appear complicit in the criminal activities either. So should the car wash be effectively shut down by government officials? Hard to say, but we’ll keep our eye on the situation.