Amy AllenAmy Allen: Danny Fulgencio

Amy Allen: Danny Fulgencio

As an assistant city attorney and the community prosecutor for the North Central police division, Amy Allen works behind the scenes on cases involving abandoned houses, run-down apartments, illegal bar activity and other dangerous nuisances.

What does a community prosecutor do?
Community prosecution is a concept for big-city geography. So, when someone says, ‘You know that bar on Knoll Trail?’ We’re up here, so we know. I know the Homeowners’ Association person, and I know the crime-watch captain. This is my little ’hood that I adopted. We have three goals: We work to improve the quality of life, improve public safety and strengthen communities. I work with other city departments — streets, the Dallas Police Department, code. We try to bring all these things together, with an emphasis on voluntary compliance.

What does that mean?
Let’s say there’s a business. They’re letting litter collect, they have too many signs on the window, and their fence is falling down. If I were to take them to court, I could get up to $1,000 per day, per violation. That adds up. If we win, the city gets money, but the property doesn’t get fixed. I don’t care about winning. I just want to fix the fence.

How many cases have you taken to court?
I have not had to go to court. That doesn’t mean that I won’t have to. That’s my last resort.

What are the most common cases you deal with in North Central?
North Central is huge. You hear, ‘Oh, that’s North Dallas. They don’t have problems.’ That’s so not true. We have what we call PFAs — primary focus areas. So, I focus mostly in the Kit and Maham area. In the last year, we’ve opened and closed three cases related to hotels and motels with numerous code violations: smoke detectors not working, rotted wood, dead trees that could fall on a car at any moment. [In one particular case], we gave them a list of problems they needed to address. In six months, they got everything fixed, and they reduced crime. They had some drug dealing, and they kicked those people out. The owner sent us a thank-you note.

We talked through bringing in more security and improving the lighting in the parking lot. We’ve had no crime there in seven months. Not even a burglary of a motor vehicle.

What about south of LBJ? What are the big issues there?
Abandoned houses.

What’s the case, usually?
Most likely, there’s been a death, and the family is still trying to determine the inheritance. Another scenario is the bank may have foreclosed, and they left. Right now, we have two houses where neither was the case — the people just left. I can’t imagine just leaving a quarter-million-dollar house.

How do you interact with the community when these things come up?
They call me directly. They call the NPO or the station or their crime-watch captain, and it gets routed to me. I represent the city; I don’t represent them. So, if someone paints their house purple with gold trim, and you’re a Texas A&M fan, not an LSU fan, I can’t help you. Ugly is not a code violation.

How did you end up with this job?
It was an accident. I was hired for re-entry community prosecution [for those coming out of prison] to find ways to make them successful and productive members of society. I worked with every gang-related youth offender in the city of Dallas, providing resources for community service, getting a job. Some went to college, and some went back to high school. It was a great program, but the funding was cut. That’s when I got this job. The city also wanted to strengthen its focus on gun crimes. Five hundred men and women, who are on probation or parole, are taking a class that I teach through the Gun Crime Education Program. It’s illegal for a convicted felon to have access to a gun, but a lot of felons don’t realize that that means you can’t even be in a car where there’s a gun in the glove box. And just last week, I was one of three attorneys chosen to serve as a [volunteer] Special Assistant United States Attorney (SAUSA). We can take a case [involving a felon and a gun] that might otherwise be overlooked and prosecute them in federal court.

So you work with convicted felons on prevention, but you also could end up prosecuting them?
Yes. I can tell someone in class, ‘Don’t go do that.’ And if they do, I take them to court. But we’re all about preventing that from happening. When I became involved with the Prison Fellowship ministry, founded by Chuck Colson, I was trying to decide whether I wanted to go to law school or do something else like join the Peace Corps. It was a great marriage of bringing law and order and justice to the world and making peace. That’s my passion. And I’m not sure that community prosecution is much different.

Contact Amy Allen at 214.952.6505.

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.