Ahead of a South Dallas Police Surge, Small Team of Officers Walk the Streets And Shake Hands - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Ahead of a South Dallas Police Surge, Small Team of Officers Walk the Streets And Shake Hands



    Officers Walk S. Dallas Streets Ahead of Surge

    The Dallas Police Department's new Violent Crime Task Force will focus on some troubled South Dallas neighborhoods starting next week. (Published Thursday, April 7, 2016)

    The Dallas Police Department's new Violent Crime Task Force will focus on some troubled South Dallas neighborhoods starting next week.

    Violent crime is up across the city, but the extra patrols have only been dedicated to North Dallas communities since the task force was created one month ago.

    NBC 5 has an inside look at the planning to bring violent crime down in the southern part of town.

    The House of Parts hardware store on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard has been around for more than 40 years.

    Workers there have seen the community change countless times over the decades; crime trends spike and then settle back down again.

    But in recent months, worker Stacie Berry says at times it feels like police have given up down here.

    "You can walk around and at any point in time you can see someone get jumped on, somebody getting robbed, somebody breaking into somebody's car," Berry said.

    "They wasn't around as much as they were supposed to be around," she added, referring to police.

    Now police are working hard to fix that perception.

    A handful of officers spent Thursday afternoon walking up and down MLK Boulevard, visiting shops and stores in the area and introducing themselves to employees.

    "Most communities, they know the local merchants. They know the postman. Only right they know the local police officer, as well," said Sgt. Maury Agent, a South Dallas native who has been a Dallas police officer for nearly 30 years.

    Agent said he understands some business owners are frustrated about this year's violent crime spike. Homicides, violent assaults and business robberies are all up compared to last year.

    "Those people that are really frustrated we tell them to be patient," Agent said. "There's a certain amount of resources that we have to allocate all over the city. So it takes time to clean up a problem."

    Hakim Mutasim runs a free-weight focused gym on MLK near Colonial Avenue called the Sunny Side Athletic Club.

    It's a no-frills gym focused on high-intensity weight training. He lovingly calls it a "big boy gym".

    "Go hard or go home," he said. "That's our motto. That's the motto of a real gym."

    Hakim admits he's not sure how the police plan to flood his neighborhood with scores of officers will go over with long-time residents.

    "Sometimes a beefed up police presence is kind of alarming. It makes you think something bad is going on," Hakim said. "I think there may be some negative feedback on that, seeing so many officers here."

    That's exactly why Sgt. Agent's team visited the neighborhood on Thursday.

    The group of a half-dozen officers stopped by businesses and let employees know that the Violent Crime Task Force would be coming next week, that they had nothing to be afraid of and that they hoped to earn people's trusts to help put bad guys behind bars.

    "It's all about relationship building," Agent said.

    The task force was created on March 1. It has nearly 170 uniformed officers, including officers from the Gang Unit, K-9 Unit, Narcotics and Patrol. The team has been successful in bringing down violent assaults and shootings, but it's been focused only in North Dallas, even though violent crime is up significantly in South Dallas as well.

    NBC 5 asked Deputy Chief Paul Stokes, who oversees the task force, about the decision to deploy the VCTF to North Dallas first.

    "We did an analysis of the TAAG areas, and we found that the Forest-Audelia and Five Points TAAGs had the majority of the violent crime," said Stokes.

    "For such a small section of area, Forest-Audelia, Five Points and Ross-Bennett really had a disproportionate amount of violent crime that we needed to address quickly," he said.

    In this section of South Dallas—District 4—the latest available crime numbers show that business robberies are up 35 percent compared to last year.

    And there's been seven murders, compared to just through the first three months of last year.

    Stokes is also in charge of the Southeast Patrol Division.

    "Trust me, I know the need for more officers here," he said. "I couldn't get the Violent Crime Task Force here soon enough. But I understand that we need to think of it as a larger effort to reduce violent crime across the city, and not just specifically in my area."

    The Violent Crime Task Force will be here starting Tuesday.

    Instead of a handful of patrol cars, residents will notice a significant surge in police vehicles—20 or more, at some parts of the day—cruising the streets.

    "I think it'll be extremely effective down here," said Agent. "You take a large amount of resources and officers and put it in one area, and concentrate on that area, and I think we'll make a tremendous impact."

    There will be a big focus on traffic stops and getting drivers with suspended licenses and out-of-date insurance.

    Sometimes those traffic stops, police say, can lead to vehicle searches that yield significant amount of drugs, or stolen weapons. Or, sometimes those traffic stops help generate new leads and tips about local crime.

    "They're going to see a lot of uniformed officers out here, a lot of traffic stops, a lot of engagement with the community," Stokes said.

    Stokes says in just a few weeks, the VCTF has helped bring down violent crime by more than 10 percent in some sections of North Dallas.

    Now the focus turns south, where earning trust and walking the streets is good police work.

    "The heads-up today is so that we can get real time information, current intelligence to know what's going on right now," Stokes said. "Foot patrol is the grassroots effort to get the intelligence, it really is."

    "When you earn a business owner's trust and he recognizes you as someone he rely on," Stokes said, "They can say, 'Hey, this crime happened last night, this is who the person was, or this is what he was wearing, this is the time of day.' And then we can get busy and get to work."

    Building a small bridge now can mean getting a big tip later. And sometimes, all it takes is a smile, a hello, and a handshake.

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