Dallas homes and business that host "habitual criminal activity" could soon face having their doors decorated with a city of Dallas placard announcing their status, thanks to a newly proposed ordinance from the Dallas Police Department. The owners of the properties could face legal trouble, too, if they fail to attend meetings with DPD and city staff to get their properties back in line.
The proposed new regulations are part of a set of changes DPD is pushing for the city code's minimum property standards so that the department and the city can better rein in properties considered to be public nuisances.
The "nuisance abatement" process would go like this: After five documented "abatable" criminal activities — think prostitution, gambling, drug activity, criminal trespass, arson or graffiti — occur at a property during a 365-day period, the property would come under review for being a "habitual criminal property." Once that happens, the owner of the property or the owner's representative would be issued a notice to meet with representatives from DPD and the Dallas City Attorney's Office. At the meeting, the property owner can show city representatives what he or she is doing to clean up the property and stop the alleged criminal activity.
After the meeting Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall (or someone designated by her) would determine whether the property in question still qualifies as a criminal property. If it does, a placard with the language below would be attached to the property, and the property owner would be on the hook for inspection costs to ensure that the property is brought back up to code. Removing one of the placards would be a crime.
“THE DALLAS POLICE DEPARTMENT HAS DECLARED THIS PROPERTY A CRIMINAL NUISANCE UNDER ARTICLE VIII, CHAPTER 27, OF THE DALLAS CITY CODE. IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, PLEASE CALL DPD AT [TELEPHONE NUMBER DETERMINED BY THE CHIEF]; OR, IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SUSPICIOUS OCCURRING AT THIS PROPERTY OR IN AN EMERGENCY, DIAL 911.”
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Hall said Monday that the new ordinance will help DPD build trust in the communities it serves.
"If communities have the perception that criminal activity goes unchallenged by police, they will lose confidence in law enforcement," Hall tweeted. "We know there are certain locations and businesses throughout the city that are havens for criminal activity. Our ultimate goal is to eliminate criminal nuisances, revitalize neighborhoods and provide cleaner places to live, work and play."
Members of the Dallas City Council's public safety committee voiced support for the new ordinance Monday, calling it a good first step toward combating crime hot spots around the city. Sandy Greyson, who represents District 12 in North Dallas, said a provision of the ordinance that would make it a criminal offense for owners to skip out on their meetings with the city is key.
"I think this is a really good start. I think this is going to be a good tool, and I'm looking forward to seeing the results out of this," Greyson said. "I think when we force [the owners] to come in, we will see some results."