Amid a surge in violent crime, including a high murder rate, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson on Monday announced action in his safer communities plan.
The new city budget that took effect Oct. 1 includes $4.5 million to make the programs happen.
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“We have too many families whose lives are forever changed by the thoughtless pull of a trigger,” Johnson said.
The announcement came at South Oak Cliff High School with pictures of crime victims in the background.
One father of a victim is task force member Maxie Johnson, a Dallas pastor who is also a Dallas Independent School District trustee, and is not related to the mayor.
Johnson’s 22-year old son was murdered near the high school in August 2019.
His father was emotional talking about it Monday.
“I know first-hand the devastation, the plague, having lost my son,” he said. “This is something that I am here to speak about. It is something that I have lived and still struggle to make sense of at times.”
A 17-year old was arrested for the killing two months after the murder.
The task force recommendations are measures used in other cities to help make high crime areas less conducive to violence.
The budget includes $2 million for better lighting, $1.7 million to combat blight and overgrown abandon lots and $800,000 for violence interrupters. They are paid to civilian workers, many of them former gang members who know the streets.
“And I know that these programs will work. They’ve been proven in major cities. They’ve been supported by criminologists all over the country,” task force member Derrick Battie said.
Co-chairman Rene Martinez said the task force took input from local leaders and police but did not stop there.
“We used data, research based information that drove those recommendations,” Martinez said.
That research will help target the programs to the neighborhoods that would benefit most.
Retired Dallas executive assistant police Chief David Pughes has switched to a new civilian job with the city of Dallas to oversee the implementation of the safer communities plans.
“Safety requires all of us looking out for each other,” Eric Johnson said.
The Dallas Mayor said a New York Times article recently publicized Dallas with the highest murder rate among top Texas cities.
The tally has been pacing as high or ahead of last year when there were more than 200 killings in Dallas.
Dallas ISD will also partner with the city on the safe communities plan with violence prevention programs.
A separate $500,000 is included in the new Dallas budget for youth programs that were not part of the mayor's task force recommendations.