Thursday morning, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson trotted out his task force's four recommendations for curbing violent crime in Dallas. The mayor, with the support of key members of the City Council, wants to clean up abandoned buildings and lots in areas with high levels of violent crime, provide better lighting in those areas, educate kids in school to "pause before they act," and hire and train people who live in targeted neighborhoods as "interrupters" to help resolve conflicts before they end in gun violence.
Johnson convened his task force in August after the killing of 9-year-old Brandoniya Bennett in Old East Dallas. He said that he wanted his appointees to search out data-based solutions to escalating violent crime in the city, and, looking at the group's report, they've certainly provided a lot of data.
The blight remediation program recommended by the report is based on a plan in Philadelphia that reduced firearm assaults by 39%. In New York, increased nighttime lighting cut "index crimes" by 36%, and a Chicago program led to a 49% crime reduction among participating students. The impetus for the violence "interrupters" idea comes from Chicago, too, where interrupters in targeted neighborhoods reduced murders in those neighborhoods by 38%.
Johnson called each of the initiatives essential, but members of the task force identified the blight reduction and increased lighting as goals that might be met quickly.
“I am proud of the task force’s work. The thought and effort they put into producing this report is evident and commendable," Johnson said. “By combining these recommendations with an ambitious, carefully crafted law enforcement crime plan, I believe we can, within the next five years, reach the record lows for violent crime we saw in 2013 and 2014 in this city, and that must be our goal.”
The rollout of Johnson's plan comes in the aftermath of a plan, also intended to reduce violent crime, released by Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall last week, calling for a 5% reduction in violent crime across the board.
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Johnson doesn't believe that's enough.
“A 5% reduction in violent crime after the year we just had is not going to cut it for me,” Johnson said.
The mayor met with the heads of seven Dallas charitable foundations Thursday afternoon to talk about helping the city pay for the plan. The city needs help, he said, to fully implement the task force's vision.
"These recommendations come with price tags," Johnson said, "and these are things that we're going to discuss at the council level — with the government — but, before that, there's a role that the philanthropic community and the business community has to play."