By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Dallas is Number One. We have the worst crime rate of America's major cities, based on the most recent set of FBI crime statistics. And guess what? It's getting way worse even as you read this.
Murders in Dallas in June were up 300 percent over the same period in the previous year. For the first six months of this year compared with the first six months of last year, murder in Dallas is up 71 percent.
Nobody can catch us now.
The numbers are just staggering. In order to get your mind around the throngs of people who are victims of crime in this city, you have to compare them to some other well-known group. Let's take voters, for example.
Last year more than twice as many people in Dallas were victims of crime as the number who voted to elect Laura Miller mayor. If you added all of the votes cast for council members Elba Garcia, John Loza, Steve Salazar and James Fantroy, you'd still be more than 1,000 short of the number of people in Dallas last year who were raped, murdered or robbed.
In fact, the number of Dallasites who were raped, robbed, assaulted, burglarized or otherwise stolen from last year is almost twice the number of votes cast in the recent election and runoff election for all 14 council members.
The FBI numbers for last year are scary enough. The Dallas Police Department's own numbers are absolutely bone-chilling. So far this year, business robberies are up more than 12 percent, residential burglaries up more than 9 percent, theft more than 11 percent. In June 2002, there were seven murders in the city. In June of this year there were 28. At this pace, we'll hit 244 murders at the end of the year, compared with last year's total of 192.
When the numbers from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report are used to rank American cities with populations of a million or more, the results are devastating for Dallas. The overall crime rate, violent and nonviolent, is higher in Dallas than in any other city with a population of more than 1 million. There are three times as many crimes reported in Dallas per 100,000 people as in New York City. We rank in the top four for murders per capita, with Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Dallas is No. 2 in per capita nonviolent theft and fraud, after San Antonio. We're second for rape, after Philadelphia, with more than twice as many rapes per 100,000 people as New York City.
We are the second worst in the country for violent crime. We are numero uno in robbery, burglary and arson. Your chances of being burglarized in Dallas are twice what they are in New York City.
Afraid of crime? Worried about becoming a victim? Hurry! Pack your bags! Move to New York!
On the other hand, if you happen to be a crook, I would advise staying put. Dallas Police Department numbers show this is an excellent venue for burglars, for example. According to the department's clearance rates for business burglary, almost 93 out of 100 business burglars in the city this year will go un-caught.
Un-caught--that's scot-free. A 93 out of 100 chance of getting away with it seems much better than running away to Mexico. After all, you might get stopped at the border.
The clearance rate for murder is much better, of course, because murder is a more serious crime. For murder, DPD is hitting around 60 percent of cases solved this year. That's just a little lower than the national average.
But then you could also look at it this way: Our murder rate per 100,000 souls is 14 percent higher than the national big-city average, and of the ones we have, the vast majority probably are not of the Agatha Christie variety. I look at a clearance rate of 59.5 percent for murder so far in 2003, and I figure that means I can get real drunk and real mad, walk into one of the less lovely drinking establishments in my part of town with my blunderbuss and send some citizen to his everlasting reward. All I have to do is go home and lounge around in my wife-beater T-shirt watching reality television: I've got four chances out of 10 of getting off scot-free!
Those aren't such terrible odds, are they? And we say the criminals are the stupid ones.
The latest numbers are terrible, but they aren't brand-new. Dallas crime rates have been getting really bad for at least a couple of years. I am aware that the most recent numbers finally have put some kind of fear of God in our otherwise oddly complacent city leadership; phone calls are flying back and forth between their various vacation spots as we speak, and a special briefing of the city council is being hurriedly cobbled together for early September, probably with an eye toward bringing in an outside auditor to see what in the hell is wrong with the police department. And all of that is absolutely to the good. It already sounds better than the usual Dallas response to unpleasantness: "Quick, look over there! It's the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders!"
But let me just ask you something in passing here, and then we'll go on to the serious business. Wasn't Laura Miller going to tackle the basics? Is there something more basic than having the worst crime rate in the country?