This week Dallas police released information about t he motives behind the city's 2016 homicides at a public meeting. The stats are interesting, as are some of the back stories behind them. Not everything is as black and white as the stats portray.
Here are the stats presented by DPD this week, with the actual number reported and percent of overall homicides:
That Home Invasion Was Not Random
The words "home invasion" conjure up some horrifying images, many stemming from horror movies where victims are selected at random. What happened to 61-year-old John Horton is no less horrifying, but not as simple as a slasher film. Four people that he knew, each in their 20s, schemed to distract him and then rob his home by gunpoint. Horton defended himself with a gun, and wounded one of the invaders, but was shot dead. Police arrested Jayona Jones, Raul Sanchez, Marino Sanchez and and Pedro Alarcon in relation to the crime.
Why Does "Argument/Conflict" Top the Motive List?
Any cop or even armchair detective knows that most homicides are committed by people victims knew. Local and federal statistics bear out this fact. That means relationship problems, mental health problems and recent crises at home have a bigger impact on homicide rates than, say, gang turf wars and random street crime. However, the pool of "unknown" motives could push other motives closer to the number cited in this category. For example, interim Dallas Police Chief David Pughes griped to the Dallas City Council's Public Safety Committee that witnesses in drug murders aren't coming forward. "So, when you have a large portion of your homicides that involve drug transactions, you get witnesses that are unwilling to cooperate with the investigation," he said. "They won't come forward and testify, won't assist the detective with the investigation." That sure sounds like he's talking about more than just 18 of 171 total homicides.
Dallas' One Arson Homicide: Unsolved
In May 2016, officials responding to a North Dallas house fire found the body of Ira Tobolowsky, an attorney from a prominent local family. Police are investigating the fire as a homicide, and the case seems cold.
There were 12 cases of officer-involved shootings, according to statistics provided by the department. Of those, police missed the target in five instances, killed the subject in four and wounded the subject in the remaining three.
"Unknown": The DPD's Unsolved Blues
As the Observer has analyzed previously, Dallas police have cleared less than half of homicides in 2016. Over the course of 2016, DPD cleared — clearances being defined as making an arrest, not getting a conviction — 84 of the 172 murders committed in the city of Dallas. According to the FBI, DPD's clearance rate hovered around 60 percent between 2011 and 2014, so dipping down below 50 percent is notable. An Observer examination of where the bodies landed showed a majority of all Dallas murders, and a majority of the city's unsolved murders, happened south of I-30:
How's It Going So Far in 2017?
Short term statistics typically mean very little, as even single incidents can lead to large changes in percentages. For example, 12 extra robberies of businesses led to a 6 percent rise. Even the double digit rise in aggravated assaults or equally large decline in sexual assaults may even out as the year progresses.
Today, overall crime is down 4.78% compared to this time last year pic.twitter.com/eeoIyUibPz— Dallas Police Dept (@DallasPD) March 27, 2017
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.