City Hall

Dallas' Annual Community Survey Leads to Debate on Police Priorities

The results from the 2018 version of Dallas' big community survey, the one it contracts the ETC Institute to do every year, might come as a bit of surprise — if you've just immigrated to the city from Norway and haven't driven around town yet. Dallas residents who took the survey are fed up with the condition of city streets, feel short-changed by the police department's dwindling staffing levels and think the city's schools aren't worth having their children attend.

While those who live in Dallas have a generally positive perception of the city — more than 70 percent of those surveyed said the overall quality of life it provides is excellent or good — more than three-quarters of city residents reported being unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with the condition of the streets. Thirty-seven percent rated public schools as poor, the lowest option available. Over the last 10 years, according to the survey, residents have also reported big drops in their satisfaction with police response times and traffic enforcement — the issue that got more play than any other at Wednesday's City Council meeting.

"You cannot get a ticket in this town. I can strap a still on the top of car and brew from it, and I'm not getting a ticket." — Dallas City Council member Mark Clayton

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Some members of the council tipped their hats at the need to pour more money into fixing the city streets — an issue that council members always say they want to do something about until they're confronted with the staggering cost. East Dallas' Mark Clayton invoked the broken windows theory to blame Dallas' lack of traffic cops for some of the city's ills, touching off an interesting discussion with City Manager T.C. Broadnax about Dallas police priorities.

"You cannot get a ticket in this town," Clayton said. "I can strap a still on the top of car and brew from it, and I'm not getting a ticket. ... How are we going to address what [residents] are saying is the No. 1 problem? If people perceive there's no consequences for their actions, then that leads to bigger issues."

Broadnax told Clayton that, given the Dallas Police Department's ongoing attrition issues, the city is lucky people are singling out traffic enforcement.

"Given our level of police staffing and our understanding of crime prevention, I think the chief and her team are focused on the things we hear a lot about," Broadnax said. "I know the survey says that people are concerned about traffic, but I think you'd hear a lot more if they weren't doing their best to mitigate crime. The staff we're hiring is going into patrol."

Until DPD can hire a big chunk of the more than 500 officers it needs to fill out its force, Dallas isn't likely to see more traffic cops on the road, Broadnax said.