On Sunday, the Morning News' Tanya Eiserer took a lengthy peek at DPD staffing trends; what she found can best be described as alarming.
Over the past two years, the number of detectives assigned to work the city's most pressing crimes has plummeted by 46 percent. The number of homicide detectives has dropped from 26 to 15 during that time frame; for sex crimes, the reduction was from seven to four; and the robbery unit was cut by nearly two-thirds, from 26 detectives to just 10.
Predictably, DPD Chief David Brown defended the cuts by playing the crime-has-fallen-for-11-straight-years card, as he has been known to do.
"It's just so dramatic... just half the murders that we used to work," Brown told the paper last week. "The last nine years there's been a dramatic drop in aggravated assaults, in sexual assaults. It's fallen off the cliff. To say we don't have staffing is just the opposite of what we're seeing."
That line of reasoning would make sense if the staffing cuts were commensurate with the reduction in crime, but they're not. Since 2010, violent crime has declined by just 10.5 percent, at a quarter of the pace of staff reduction. That means that detectives are working many more cases at a pace that current and former detectives tell the News is unsustainable.
Inevitably, it results in cases like the one Eiserer leads her story with, about Oak Cliff convenience store owner Cristobal DeLeon. He IDed the robber as 19-year-old Cruz Alcala, but it took several weeks for him to be interviewed by detectives, and his case was later suspended because the robbery unit didn't have a Spanish-speaking detective. In the meantime, Alcala allegedly kidnapped and raped a woman.
Brown's other explanation is that the staffing reductions are part of the department's strategic decision "to focus our staffing model on visibility in Dallas neighborhoods. Our staffing model decisions require investigative efficiency -- doing more with less," as he told the News in an email.
That's closer to the truth. Laudable as the decade-long drop in crime has been, the numbers don't justify the wholesale evisceration of DPD's detective force. Neither does an increased focus on crime prevention. That strategy may be a smart one, but it shouldn't be done at the expense of solving crimes that do occur. That is, after all, one of the police department's primary responsibilities.