Dallas Needs More Police Officers, But Even More, We Need Citizens to Step Up for Public Safety

In the Dallas mayoral election, public safety is getting the attention it deserves.Candidates have suggested various solutions to increase our police force, and certainly hiring more police will make our city safer. But are more police officers the sole answer to decreasing crime and violence?We need our police and criminal justice system to intervene, disrupt criminal behavior and remove the criminal element from our high-crime areas. This work is a crucial first step toward creating a safe city, but more police officers is only half of the solution.We need a solution that complements current police efforts, regardless of department size and number. To create sustainable change in the crime and violence of our city, we need to look not just to our paid civil servants but within the community itself — the civil society of our neighborhoods.As a lawyer serving in West Dallas, I learned that drug-related crime had a powerful hold on our inner-city neighborhoods, playing a major role in city crime for decades. Owners of drug houses or properties harboring drug sales, prostitution and other crime cause law-abiding people to feel like prisoners in their own homes.In neighborhoods with drug houses, it's not uncommon to find used condoms, needles and bullet casings on the street. Parents don't let their kids play in the front yard for fear they will be confronted by a drug dealer or prostitute. They rarely get a good night's sleep because of gunfire or fear that someone will break in and harm their family. And while the police department works hard to make our city safer, there is only so much the police department can do on its own.But there is hope. Because for every resident who lives in fear and isolation, there is one who has the courage to stand up and take back his or her neighborhood from the crime and violence that drug houses perpetrate. These residents are the other half of the solution.Over the past decade, more than 200 courageous families have worked with our city's talented legal minds to shut down more than 150 crime-ridden properties in Dallas. They fought for justice and saw significant crime reductions in their neighborhoods. In some cases, crime was cut in half and has remained that way.But there is more work to do. In the highest crime areas of our city — West Dallas, South Dallas, south Oak Cliff, Pleasant Grove and Bachman — more than 600 of the worst drug houses still need to be shut down.However, within these same neighborhoods, there are hundreds of courageous residents who want to put an end to the crime and violence that radiates from these properties. There are also lawyers who are ready to represent them and churches that are prepared to spiritually support them through the legal process. I call this shalom, a return to the way things ought to be.Should Dallas hire more police officers? Absolutely. But without a sustainable solution, our city will only be chasing its tail. That solution must include the courageous Dallas residents who can make lasting change.Reid Porter is a lawyer in Dallas, a 2019 Civil Society Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and the founder of the nonprofit Advocates for Community Transformation.   Continue reading...

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