Dallas County District Attorney Addresses City Council Members About Plans for Criminal Justice Reform

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot told city council members Monday how he plans to make swift changes to the way crimes are prosecuted in Dallas County. 

Creuzot outlined his policy for members of the Dallas City Council's public safety and criminal justice committee, who invited him to explain his plans. This after the district attorney took heat from some state and law enforcement officials.

Committee members questioned Creuzot over specific aspects of his policy.

"My concern is it's going to have the hardest impact on these low-income, high-crime areas," said Jennifer Staubach Gates, who represents District 13.

Gates referred to Creuzot's plans to curb the prosecution of certain low-level crimes, including marijuana offenses and theft of personal items worth less than $750, unless the theft was for financial gain.

Sandy Greyson, council member from District 12, expressed concern over Creuzot's policy not to prosecute thefts for crimes of need.

"We're not really considering the business owner in this, What if six people come in and steal diapers, how does he recover that loss if he doesn't prosecute?" Greyson said.

Another concern was the district attorney's plan to cut back on prosecuting crimes for trespassing and panhandling.

"That is killing Pleasant Grove, killing us," said Ricky Callahan, council member from District 5.

Creuzot has taken heat from law enforcement agents who fear his changes could lead to an increase in criminal activity. But he fired back, arguing that reforming the criminal justice system was a pledge he made throughout his campaign... and he's not backing down now.

"We have an over-criminalization of America and it starts with poor people and people of color, and we know that. Everybody knows it, everybody says we're going to do something about it, but nobody ever does anything and so that's why I'm acting," Creuzot said.

Council member Kevin Felder said he supported the district attorney.

"I want you to know that I support what you're doing because Dallas had one of the highest concentrations of poverty in the nation and it's not a crime to be poor," Felder said.

After the briefing, many of the county's police chiefs said they were worried and would continue on their current paths.

It was suggested that the district attorney do a public information campaign to share details of his policy with county residents. Creuzot agreed and said his office planned to do so soon. Council members overwhelmingly agreed that clear communication was key to moving forward.

"We don't want to feel as if our police officers' hands are tied or that they are confused and don't know which way to go," said Carolyn King Arnold, council member from District 4.

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