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For years, folks who live or work near the Will Rogers Memorial Center have noticed an increase in petty thefts when the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is held for three weeks this time of year. Some of them assumed it was the “carnies,” the traveling souls who work at the amusement park that is part of the event. I mentioned the annual spurt in crime to a restaurant owner who works in the West 7th corridor.

“Being a carnie is just a cover for being in organized crime,” he said. “The carnivals provide an excuse for them to run around and steal shit.”

In previous years, the arrival of the Stock Show meant his restaurant would be broken into at least once. One time, thieves broke into his freezer and stole food. Another time, his catering van was stolen.

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“It was like clockwork,” he said.

The carnies, however, might not be the suspects after all.

Tom McNutt, the Westside’s Neighborhood Police Officer, attributed the crime increase to homeless people who gravitate to the Stock Show each year.

Homeless people, some from out of town, show up looking for jobs, he said. The agriculture students and their parents who shelter animals in Will Rogers’ barns sometimes pay homeless people to clean the stalls. McNutt sees a noticeable but “not absurd” increase in crime each year, most of it related to stolen purses, saddles, spurs, and such that are left lying open in stalls or in vehicles.

About 1 million people visit the Stock Show each year.

“For as many people who come here, [the crime increase] is not bad,” McNutt said. “We have officers who work there and control the parking lots. I get out there as much as I can. What I normally do is tell as many people as I can, since that’s my [patrol] area, to lock their car and keep their purses hidden.”

I asked the unnamed restaurant owner what he thought of McNutt’s assessment that it was the homeless, not the carnies, on the prowl.

“I’m not an expert,” he said. “I’m just a guy who drinks beer. But there is not a whole lot of difference between homeless people and carnies.”

1 COMMENT

  1. ‘Way back in the day,’ Cowtown was a smaller, funkier, truly-more-local, much more fun place to live.
    Back then, the cultural district was actually a place you could hang out without having a major credit card to prove you existed. Fort Worth dry-fly fishermen taught fly-casting to local folks who wanted to go fly fishing and enjoy the experience. The Modern Art Museum sits where a small, funky apartment complex used to provide relatively cheap apartments to older folks. The Back Porch was just down the street from the 7th Street movie theater and fed awesome salads to local vegheads. If you guessed the weight of your salad, then you got a discount. Football, rugby and ultimate frisbee players rejoiced on the Kimbell’s Great Lawn, showing up every Saturday morning to enjoy the park and the sunshine.

    Homeless people were more prevalent in those days, especially around the Great Lawn. I once knew a homeless fellow who lived in the bushes at the Kimbell Art Museum for several months. The police were especially compassionate to these folks. The police finally ran “The Kimbell Bush Doctor” off ONLY because he set off some fireworks. No one hassled us. I do NOT recall more homeless folks during the Stock Show, primarily because the weather was always so darn cold. I distinctly remember Stock Shows being interrupted by rain, cold weather and black ice … not exactly ideal for living outside.

    It seems to me, this entire ‘Blame crime on the carnies, No! Blame crime on the homeless’ nonsense is the knee-jerk reaction of some newly minted CowYuppie who spends more time on his iPad avoiding Waze traffic or monitoring his post-workout heart rate on his Fitbit watch.

    I may be frickin older than dirt,’ but I ain’t ‘Cowtown conservative!’ And I damn sure ain’t conveniently blaming instances of petty crime on the first poor, homeless or down-on-his-luck fella walking around the cultural district while all the newbies are driving identical SUVs and adjusting the sound volume on their bluetooth speakers.

    Damn, do I miss Fort Worth before local fatcat Republicans got the idea “Hey, we can make it better than Dallas!”

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