Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson released the city's Task Force on Safe Communities report on Thursday which highlights four things that must be done to curb violent crime in the city.
Johnson created the task force in August 2019 and tasked them with figuring out what can be done about the city's skyrocketing violent crime rate. The group of 16 then spent months "touring high-crime areas, discussing ideas, learning about programs in other cities, and talking about strategies with stakeholders, nonprofits, community leaders, and policy experts" before submitting their report to the mayor's office on Dec. 31.
“They’re very specific. They’re very concrete. It is a road map forward. It’s just a matter of doing these things,” Johnson said.
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The Mayor asked for recommendations that will complement the separate plan Dallas Police are developing.
“The evidence on these four strategies that we recommended are very strong and we think they can easily be implemented in the City of Dallas,” said UTD Criminal Justice Expert Alex Piquero, a task force member. “I think the cost of inaction is worse than the cost of action.”
The report provides four specific, data-based recommendations to reduce violent crime using strategies outside of the purview of law enforcement.
- Remediate blighted buildings and abandoned lots in high-violence locations.
- Add outdoor lighting in locations where nighttime violence has been most severe.
- Utilize schools to deliver group support that teaches kids to pause before they act.
- Hire and train credible messengers from within high-violence neighborhoods as "violence interrupters" to keep resolvable conflicts from escalating into gun violence.
"The Mayor's Task Force on Safe Communities' report challenges us to do more to address the conditions that foster violent crime and to look at the issue holistically," Johnson said in a prepared statement. "By combining these recommendations with an ambitious, carefully crafted law enforcement crime plan, I believe we can, within the next five years, reach the record lows for violent crime we saw in 2013 and 2014 in this city, and that must be our goal."
The mayor's office said the task force's recommendations are supported by extensive research of best practices used across the country and the report has been endorsed by eight distinguished criminologists.
The report said Chicago and Baltimore both had success with Violence Interrupters. It suggests that approach for Dallas areas around Bachman Lake and Northwest Highway where there is a high concentration of apartments.
Dean Bonyo who said he is connected with a website called KenyanReport.com, lives there now.
“It’s really important that there’s more people that know to do the right thing,” he said. “It takes a community to raise a child. It’s going to take a community to solve a problem as big as fighting crime.”
The report suggests a Pleasant Grove neighborhood where more street lighting is needed.
School Crossing Guard Larry Larrett, who works and lives in the neighborhood, said the suggestion makes sense for discouraging crooks.
“The bad guy, he’s going to judge the neighborhood by its appearance. And we as neighbors, we’re going to be responsible. They going to look at the neighborhood and go ‘They don’t care, this is nothing.’ But if they see that we care about it, they’re going to think twice,” Larrett said.
The report says New York City cut crime by 36% with better lighting high crime areas.
Philadelphia cut crime by 39% with a blight remediation program for decaying buildings.
Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata said those have been a Dallas problem for as long as he has been a patrol officer.
“People are inside doing drugs or other crimes and the city should do everything it can to get rid of those,” Mata said. “These four things are absolutely pillars to long term creating a safer Dallas.”
Police Chief U. Renee Hall has proposed a violent crime plan for police with a goal of 5% reduction citywide next year.
After more than 200 murders in 2019, Mayor Johnson said the goal is too weak and it should be a return to the historically low levels of 2013 and 2014.
Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee Chairman Adam McGough, a former Dallas Community Prosecutor, said his committee will begin reviewing the plans Monday.
“You will not be effective if you don’t have the community with you, standing with you, working with you and fighting with you,” McGough said. Johnson said he hopes to raise private money to help city hall pay for the community programs.
Included in the report are extrapolated costs and the potential benefits of the programs based on the results in other cities. In addition, the report also makes several other suggestions, beyond the four core recommendations, to address the underlying causes of violent crime.
The full report is available below.