Dallas Police Department Chief Renee Hall had to see it coming. If there was a chance that she'd get out of the Dallas City Council's Public Safety Committee meeting Monday unscathed, it disappeared Thursday, when Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson made clear his issues with the business Hall had scheduled for Monday.
Hall's plan to reduce violent crime, drafted at Johnson's command after Dallas suffered through more than 200 homicides in 2019, has one concrete goal — reducing violent crime in the city by 5% through increased intelligence gathering, a new 100-member violent crime reduction team, and partnerships with state and federal agencies as well as targeted use of department units like the traffic and narcotics division. It's a real goal that Hall believes she can lead her department to meet. It's also not enough for a mayor and City Council that believe Dallas is in the midst of a public safety crisis.
"It’s important to me that we are as ambitious in our goals as we reasonably can be. I have been clear since I first read this plan that a target of a 5% citywide reduction in violent crime is not going to cut it for me," Johnson said during remarks to the committee before Hall presented her plan. "I understand that this plan contains internal goals for 10% reductions in some categories at some patrol stations. It’s good to have such targets internally, but these goals, as stated, are irrelevant to the public because they are simply a component of a 5% citywide reduction. They are a means to an end, not an end in and of itself."
Johnson wants DPD to reduce violent crime to 2018 levels, which would require a 16% reduction in aggravated assaults, a 13% reduction in robberies and a 17% reduction in murders. Johnson hopes DPD can chase violent crime down to 2013 and 2014's historically low levels within five years, he said.
Some members of the council wanted Hall's goals set even higher.
Far North Dallas City Council member Cara Mendelsohn, who has emerged as a reliable foil for Hall since being elected in June, was especially critical of the chief.
"I'm surprised that we didn't have a plan (already). We're the ninth-largest city in America, you've been here for two years and four months and if the mayor hadn't called for it, I don't believe we'd have it today. I'm disappointed about that," Mendelsohn said. "I think it's outrageously low to have a 5% goal. That that was your goal tells me so many things that are disappointing.
"Truthfully, I'm going to tell you that my biggest concern with your entire plan is that you will not meet my goal, that is to have the safest large city in America, but that you will instead meet your goal of a 5% decrease."
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Mendelsohn said that she would've liked the chief to announce a 50% reduction in violent crime as a goal.
Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates struck a similar tone.
"I don't think our community is going to say, 'Our sense of safety has improved because we have a 5% decrease,'" Gates said. "We need more than that. The community does not feel safe. That's what we're hearing when we're out at neighborhood meetings."
Hall called the plan a living document and pledged to make changes as necessary based on council recommendations and circumstances. The chief and city staff plan to give the council monthly updates on how the department is executing the plan.