Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said he's launching a campaign to combat violence. While crime statistics show overall crime was down in Dallas compared to last year, murder was up more than 13 percent.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings on Monday launched a campaign focused on mental illness intervention and domestic violence prevention to combat violence.
Rawlings said the school shooting in Connecticut, along with a spike in Dallas homicides, prompted him to act.
"We must not look at America and say it is America's problem," he said. "We must make it personal, this violence."
The mayor will host a mental health symposium and sponsor a domestic violence prevention rally this spring featuring prominent Dallas ministers and sports figures.
"We must come together as men in Dallas, Texas, and say that hitting woman is not acceptable," Rawlings said.
Part of the mayor's strategy involves a crime reduction task force that Police Chief David Brown unveiled Monday.
The task force of 100 patrol officers has begun focusing on big citywide problems such as serving outstanding warrants for wanted criminals.
Police say Ferdinand Smith, the man accused of killing his estranged wife, Karen Cox Smith, last week at a UT Southwestern Medical Center parking garage, was wanted at the time of the shooting on domestic violence charges.
"And I'm asking that these warrants be given the highest priority, along with murders in this city," Rawlings said. "This is not going to be at the bottom of the heap -- we're going to take it right to the top."
The task force is part of Brown's strategy to continue to reduce the city's crime rate, which declined 10.7 percent in 2012.
"We have several thousand warrants each year to serve and so the capacity to do those, while we continue our operations, answering calls and writing tickets, is important," Brown said.
A sharp reduction in property crime was due in part to a focus on fencing operations that handle stolen merchandise.
The chief said burglary declined in areas where thieves no longer had a place to sell stolen goods.
But homicides increased 13.55 percent, and the number of domestic violence homicides increased from 10 in 2011 to 26 in 2012.
Critics say Rawlings' plan does not go far enough.
Marsha McCartney with the gun-control advocacy group Brady Campaign to Control Violence said Dallas should restrict gun shows, saying buyers can sometimes purchase firearms from private sellers without background checks.
"That's got to be part of the conversation," she said. "That has to stop."
Rawlings said he would review restrictions on gun shows at publicly owned buildings.
But Rawlings also said that gun laws are for lawmakers in Austin and Washington to decide and that his strategy is limited to things that can be accomplished in the city of Dallas.
Debra Nixon Bowles with advocacy group Women Called Moses Coalition said shelters need funding to provide space for spousal abuse victims.
"I am a survivor. I live in this community. I see victims and the shelters are at capacity," she said. "If we do not have a better system and more funding, we're going to continue to have this problem."
Rawlings asked Bowles to participate in a Domestic Violence Task Force led by Dallas Councilwoman Delia Jasso.