Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle was at City Hall this morning for the first time since announcing his surprise retirement last week. Ostensibly, he came to discuss the newly updated crime statistics, but he kicked off a briefing of the city council's Public Safety Committee by discussing his decision to get out while the gettin' was good.
"There is a time to come in and a time to leave," he said. "I'm not leaving unhappy with anybody; I'm not leaving because I'm tired or worn out." Kunkle assured council members he has no intention of slacking off before his April 30 adios. "This has been the greatest honor of my life. The guys in the blue uniform understand that when you come to work for this department, it changes you forever."
Council member Tennell Atkins invited the chief to play golf after his retirement: "You're a blessing; we're going to miss you," Atkins said. "You have been a service to the city." Other council members echoed those remarks, among them Sheffie Kadane, who said, "I was made aware that you've been here probably five years longer than you wanted to be. I didn't think of that. I much appreciate that and you bringing us out of the hole we were in."
Kadane was referring to myriad things, of course -- chief among them the tenure of his predecessor, Terrell Bolton, who did not go willingly, and Dallas's longstanding reputation as Crime City. And while crime has steadily declined in Dallas over the last six years -- at least, the numbers have -- even Kunkle acknowledged that Dallas still ranks among the top third of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. And, as we pointed out Friday, not all the figures are dropping: The number of murders through October is slightly higher than at the same time last year.
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Kunkle, though, insisted there's a "good chance" fewer murders will be on the books in 2009 than 2008 -- in fact, he said, he thinks Dallas will post fewer than 170 homicides by year's end. (Why? He did not say.) And violent crimes such as rape, robbery and aggravated assault have dropped nearly 12 percent from last year; non-violent crimes, just over 7 percent.
The committee also discussed, as we did last week, those hot spots for vehicle burglaries. So, why Baby Dolls? DPD says the parking lot serves as a magnet for burglars gobbling up GPS devices and iPods.
After crime-stat talk, Kunkle briefly made mention of how Dallas needs to do a better job of preventing crime by reaching folks before they commit them. Which prompted a much lengthier conversation about what Delia Jasso referred to as "the revolving door of our justice system." Dwaine Caraway picked up that ball and ran with it: "We have to find a way to put these people to work. We need to find them some lawnmowers, turn them into barbers, beauticians. [It's] very important that we locate some dollars to participate with the re-entry."
At which point Atkins suggested the DPD work closer with the Dallas Independent School District to keep kids out of gangs. Jasso, matter of fact, said she'd recently returned from a crime-prevention seminar, during which organizers said that programs had begun targeting children as young as third grade to keep them out of gangs. Kunkle, though, said in Dallas, it's less about recruitment than kids growing up in "street crews," meaning: They've grown up together, gotten in minor trouble together and decided, hey, might as well see this troublemaking through to the bitter end.