The chief and council member attended a little meet-and-greet in Northwest Dallas last night -- big turnout too, about 150 folks who didn't come for the way-too-early-for-those Christmas cookies but to talk crime. Margolin, though, spent much of her time talking about ethics reform at Dallas City Hall -- "a big issue," she said, "hot and controversial." Well, maybe a few weeks ago, sure, but most of those in attendance wanted to know about mutilated kitties and busted-down doors, not Don Hill, zoning cases, campaign contributions and lobbyist registration.
Not that there wasn't some interest in City Hall doings: Somebody asked the District 13 rep if she thinks the Trinity River Corridor Project will ever get finished, which got big laughs from the audience.
"I think pieces of it will," Margolin said, before promising to spend the holiday break getting up to speed on the entirety of the thing. "In six months come back to me." (Schutze will be up shortly with some Trinity news, speaking of.)
With regards to the rise in crime in the NW -- some stats show an 18-percent increase, as opposed to an overall decline of 30-some-odd percent citywide -- Margolin did mention that she's also going to spend the next six months trying to clean up Royal Lane and Dennis Road, where, recently, a homeless camp was broken up behind a convenience store and smoke shop in front of which day-laborers spend much of their day. Matter of fact, she said, tomorrow she's got a meeting with first assistant city manager Ryan Evans and members of the Dallas Police Department, the City Attorney's Office and Code Compliance involving that very intersection. "It's gotten very bad," she said, "and we're going to crack down on some of those areas."
And another item of note: Margolin said the city's about to look into drafting an ordinance that prohibits the number of cars that can be parked at one house. (Farmers Branch and Arlington already have one.) And: Did you know Dallas has a law that says your car can't be parked in front of your house for more than 24 hours? Sure does, but Kunkle says it "can be defeated if you move it a few inches."
What else did the chief say? Lots. Jump for it.
Kunkle began his talk with a little trip down Amnesia Lane: He said that Northwest Dallas was, in fact, the very first beat to which he was assigned upon becoming a Dallas police officer in 1972. "If someone says Thomas Jefferson High School, I will say, '4001 Walnut Hill Lane,'" Kunkle said. "If someone says 3200 Duchess Trail, I will say, 'That's the second block to the north of Walnut Hill.' I can't get rid of that. My mind was not so cluttered when I was 21."
He rehashed some of the highlights from his retirement speech -- how crime's gone down during his tenure, how this has been the best five years in the history of the DPD ("not so much because of me"), how residents of the "poorest parts of the city" trust Dallas police now more than they have in decades. His opening remarks were brief, though -- Kunkle instead took questions for a good hour. About ...
Response time, for starters. Someone complained that it took an officer an hour recently to respond to a burglary call. Kunkle said it used to be DPD would concentrate on "hot spots," which came at the expense of neighborhoods in need. "We have committed to keeping officers, as much as we can, in controlled beats" to reduce response time. The man who asked the question responded: When the officer finally arrived at his doorstep, he apologized -- said he'd been working a freeway accident. Kunkle nodded.
"A bad freeway accident on Stemmons or LBJ will pull five, six cars out of a neighborhood," he said. Kunkle mentioned that the Dallas County Sheriff's Department has been handling, or trying to handle, most accidents in the southern sector, which was saving DPD resources. He suggested that Sheriff Lupe Valdez might want to move some of those deputies and resources further north. "She had to start somewhere," he told Unfair Park afterward. "Now it's time to move elsewhere."
Another resident brought up the Dallas County Constables, who've all but camped out along Walnut Hill and Royal Lanes in recent months. Kunkle said their expanded presence has been "endorsed and encouraged" by the Dallas City Council in an effort to reduce traffic violations. Much grumbling ensued.
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And several folks wondered about their freshly minted wrong-way parking tickets -- which are doled out by the city, not the DPD. "The reason for it is because there are no reflective lights on that side of the vehicle" if you're parked facing the wrong direction," he said. Kunkle said his officers will only enforce the state law when a complaint comes through 311; otherwise, hands off.
Kunkle also talked about how the city's trying to work with the county to curb crime. Has something to do with how the county jail has a capacity of 6,000 -- even though, in recent years, the actual occupancy has been significantly higher. "People who commit non-violent property crimes are spending less and less time in jail," he said. "That's a problem for all of us." Task forces have been created. Huzzah.
Hottest hot spot in Northwest Dallas? North of Bachman Lake.
Oh, and about those cat killings over the summer. No arrests, but no more mutliated cats. And, said one officer in attendance, "a giant bobcat" has been spotted near Webb Chapel Road and Walnut Hill Lane. I like to think he's a crime deterrent.