For Texan of the Year I nominate blight-fighting superhero Reid Porter (Dallas Morning News)
Dallas Morning News (print and online)
Russ Brown, contributor
In the movies, heroes made of steel arrive faster than speeding bullets to stop the bad guys with superhuman strength and great one-liners. Real life doesn't work that way, especially in the more dangerous corners of inner-city Dallas.
Criminal elements often control entire neighborhoods, leaving brave citizens few options other than to keep their heads down and pray that the violence, drugs, and prostitution next door don't find their children. Reid Porter, my nominee for Texan of the Year, has dedicated his life to shifting that balance and has achieved amazing results in 2017.
Porter was litigating big cases for bigger bucks not long ago. As Porter's legal star continued to rise, he managed to find time to serve local and international ministries. He came to know inner-city injustice, and the people affected, from his time mentoring a young man in West Dallas. He also worked internationally with a ministry focused on blotting out slavery and human trafficking by pressuring governments to enforce laws already on the books.
Both of these endeavors had a tremendous impact on Porter. He became passionate about building coalitions of community leaders, law enforcement, and servant-hearted lawyers to collectively engage in inner-city Dallas. That passion became a calling, prompting Porter to leave his law practice and launch Advocates for Community Transformation.
ACT's vision is safe inner-city neighborhoods where crime has no refuge. ACT uses a three-pronged approach to decrease violent crime in target neighborhoods. First, reduce the number of identified drug houses by 75 percent. Second, restrict the criminal networks from expanding. Third, restore dignity and hope through relational and spiritual investment in the community.
Porter built relationships in the neighborhoods and forged coalitions with city government and the legal community. He spent hours with residents and community groups in home visits and prayer walks. Porter drew on his network to recruit powerful law firms and brilliant lawyers to volunteer their time to represent law-abiding residents at no cost.
He developed and honed key relationships with the Dallas Police Department, mayor's office and churches all over town. And he began to bridge the gap between Dallas' poorest and most-affluent neighborhoods, resulting in a deployment of resources and manpower aimed at confronting inner-city crime in a new way.
In 2017 alone, ACT has resolved 30 disputes related to crime-ridden properties. Also, the group reached more than 1,700 households with additional services such as wills, criminal trespassing affidavits, family Bible studies, legal seminars and workshops, service projects, pastor prayer breakfasts, community visits, prayer walks and other community-building activities.
This year, ACT celebrated its 100th case resolution on behalf of West Dallas and southern Dallas residents. This means that 100 hot spots for prostitution, drugs, gang violence or worse now sit quiet, leaving empowered neighbors and peaceful pockets for children to play. In one West Dallas neighborhood, there has been a documented 65 percent reduction in crime.
In Porter's eyes, the battle continues. On one particular southern Dallas street, there are eight different homes connected in a criminal network involving drug use, prostitution, and other illicit activities. A block south, there is arguably the most significant drug trafficking hub in Dallas.
Porter does not wear a hero's cape. However, by thinking beyond himself, he has shown that an ordinary Texan can achieve extraordinary results. Better yet, ACT is becoming more efficient at providing accessible resources to empower inner-city residents to become real-life, modern-day crime fighters in their own neighborhoods.
Russ Brown is a Dallas attorney and leads the justice ministry Dallas Justice. He wrote this column for the Dallas Morning News. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org