As 2020 winds down, Dallas police have made little progress toward the goal of reducing overall violent crime by a modest 5% citywide this year.
The number of homicides is on pace to top last year’s figure of more than 200, and aggravated assaults that are not connected with family violence are up 26% from a year ago. Aside from those figures, overall violent crime is down 1%.
Monday, the Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee was told that Dallas homicide detectives handle more than twice the national average of four cases at a time.
“I'm worried about that. Although we have a very high clearance rate right now for homicide, I'm worried that might not continue,” city council member Cara Mendelsohn said.
Deputy Police Chief Reuben Ramirez said detectives have been shuffled recently to boost staffing in robbery, where the review of video from crime scenes is time-consuming. He agreed that homicide could use more staffing as well.
“Absolutely we need detectives. We need additional resources in many units,” Ramirez said.
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And there’s a revolving door at the Dallas County Jail.
The goal was 75 arrests in the most recent violent crime warrant round-up week on record from Sept. 28 through Oct.r 2.
Police found 42 of the wanted people -- just 56% -- lower than other recent roundups.
Of those arrested, 29 were repeat offenders. As of Monday, none were still in jail.
Police chief U. Renee Hall said keeping the people they arrest behind bars for even a short time, keeps those people from reoffending but she said she believed courts could do more to help police.
At the same time, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot refuses to prosecute people arrested for small amounts of marijuana unless there is a test to be sure it is not hemp.
But Dallas police continue to file those cases and send seized marijuana for testing.
Councilmember Adam Bazaldua said Dallas should stop arresting people for less than 4 ounces of marijuana.
“We are continuing to expend our resources when we could be using them for real crime,” Bazaldua said.
Hall and her command staff argue that small drug cases are often connected to more serious crime and those arrests should remain available as a law enforcement tool.
Public Safety Committee Chairman Adam McGough said he has heard worries from other law enforcement people that a policy to stop low level marijuana arrests would be a mistake for the City of Dallas.
“That there's an impact on the violent crime that's associated with that,” McGough said.
Mendelsohn pointed out that Dallas includes portions of Denton and Collin counties which do still prosecute marijuana cases.
Creuzot insisted there is no connection between low-level marijuana possession and violent crime but he claimed there is an equity consequence of marijuana enforcement.
“People of color, by 90% plus, are arrested for these offenses,” he said.
A public safety committee vote on Dallas marijuana arrest policy was put off for a future meeting.
But city council members made it clear they want to see police make progress on violent crime.
Police also told the committee they are pushing to get more 911 call takers on duty after extremely long hold times surfaced recently in connection with the inability to get through to report what turned out to be a homicide. Some police officers have been transferred to call taking duty to help that department shortage.
The city has hired a consultant to help recruit candidates to replace Hall who submitted her resignation. A memo to the public safety committee said City Manager T. C. Broadnax hoped to offer the job to a new candidate by the end of the year.