Last year, Dallas was plagued by violent crime, with the city seeing more than 200 murders for the first time in more than a decade. So the mayor directed police Chief U. Renee Hall to come up with a plan to reduce crime. The plan arrived in January, and so far crime is down some, although not as much as Hall had hoped — not even close.
Murders are up, but overall violent crime is down by just 0.17%, far less than the goal of a 5% reduction in violent crime and 10% cut in the number of murders the plan called for, Hall and law enforcement leaders told the City Council’s public safety committee Monday.
After the update on the 2020 Violent Crime Reduction Plan, City Councilman Casey Thomas II acknowledged the police department's efforts to reduce crime during a tumultuous year.
“It’s important that that message gets out: That crime overall is down,” he said.
Monday's presentation, which detailed crime in 2020 up to Aug. 31, indicated that robberies have dropped but aggravated assaults have increased considerably.
Since then, an additional 12 murders have occurred, Hall said. There have been 156 murders to date this year in Dallas, compared with 150 this time last year, she said.
Hall tendered her resignation from the department last week.
Councilman Adam Bazaldua came to DPD’s defense, saying the department shouldn’t have to resolve the city’s violence problem on its own. It’s also up to City Council to help police combat crime via policy, he said.
“It’s not solely on the back of our law enforcement,” Bazaldua said. “We need to figure out what we can do as policymakers and where we can assist.”
DPD’s primary concerns are aggravated assaults and homicides, the report states. In August, five people were injured in a single shooting in Deep Ellum, The Dallas Morning News reported.
That’s partly why the department has shifted its focus to entertainment districts, Deputy Chief Teena Schultz said. Over Labor Day weekend, authorities homed in on Deep Ellum in an attempt to prevent street racing and other crime in the area, she said.
The meeting wasn’t all doom. Councilman David Blewett said that since police began enforcing the juvenile curfew, he’s heard from many constituents that downtown has been safer. Further, DPD’s focus on curbing street racing has been a “success,” he said.
“I do think that the city needs to know that you guys did a good job here, and I appreciate your efforts, and I appreciate y’all working with me,” Blewett said.
The majority of aggravated assaults have occurred in multi-family apartment complexes and convenience stores, Schultz said.
As such, the department has sent a greater number of officers to patrol problem areas, which she said ultimately redirects the crimes to other places.
Monday morning, a security officer was fatally shot outside a Cockrell Hill credit union in an apparent robbery, according to NBC 5.
Thomas speculated that the increase in violent crime could be attributed to coronavirus-induced frustrations. Many people have been in self-isolation, become unemployed and some may have even lost their homes, he said.
The pandemic has also sparked a rise in homicides across the largest U.S. cities, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In Dallas, the Northeast and the three southern districts have witnessed the most violent crime this year, with the Southeast taking a considerable lead, according to the report.
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At the same time violent crime is an issue, City Council last week voted to slash DPD’s overtime budget by $7 million, The Dallas Morning News reported. That decision prompted Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold, who is also the vice chair of the public safety committee, to ask whether the move would discourage police at the end of their shift from seeing arrests through.
Hall assured council that her officers would continue to do their job and not clock out during critical moments.
“We as a police department are always going to take care of this city,” she said. “We are not going to compromise the safety of our community.”