The Dallas Police Chief’s plan to reduce violent crime in 2020 came under fire Monday at the first public presentation of the plan with the Dallas City Council.
It was a meeting of the seven-member City Council Public Safety Committee, but all 15 members including Mayor Eric Johnson were there for the briefing.
The plan includes a five percent reduction goal for violent crime in 2020.
Johnson has said that the goal is too weak and he repeated that position as Monday’s meeting began. He said a more robust goal of returning to the crime levels seen in 2018 would be better.
“If it’s unreasonable to return to where the city stood just one year go with respect to violent crime, with the same police staffing levels, an economy that’s actually improved in that time, in a city that looks nearly identical to the one we have today, then I would like to hear why,” Johnson said.
Hall said the five percent goal was based on what the city has been able to accomplish in recent years.
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“We wanted to insure that we did not give our officers a benchmark that they may not be able to exceed. Our goal is to reduce crime as low as it will go. Five percent is a floor, not a ceiling,” Hall said.
Other members of the City Council were not impressed.
“I think it’s outrageously low to have a five percent goal, and that was the goal tells me so many things that are disappointing,” Cara Mendelsohn said.
Council Member Paula Blackmon was the Chief of Staff to another Dallas Mayor.
“I came with Mayor Leppert in 2007 and we had the goal of being the safest city in America,” Blackmon said.
There was no plan for a formal 2020 crime plan before Johnson asked for one in November as the city’s was heading toward the most killings in more than a decade. The year ended with 207 murders.
Public Safety Chairman Adam McGough praised the Mayor for requesting the plan, but said he still saw “serious delinquencies” in what Hall presented.
“Had you not demanded this plan I believe we would be moving into 2020 with no comprehensive plan at all,” McGough said.
Councilman Casey Thomas defended the call for a greater amount of police resources to be directed to Southern Dallas. He cited figures NBC 5 reported in December that show a greater portion of the homicides occurred in Southern Dallas.
A separate plan from a Task Force appointed by the Mayor is intended to provide crime-fighting support for police with community-based solutions to problems that research has shown contribute to crime. They include blight like abandoned buildings, lack of lighting and lack of social programs to combat poverty.
Council Member Carolyn Arnold defended the Police Chief and said the City Council is partly to blame for allowing conditions like that to exist in her Southern Dallas district.
“That comes back to the City of Dallas. We’ve been passing the baton, passing the buck for years,” Arnold said.
The police plan calls for technology improvements like blue light cameras at convenient stores that are hooked up to the headquarters for monitoring. Better police intelligence would help direct officers to high crime hot spots. Police narcotics and gang units would be expanded.
Chief Hall said the police plan is fluid and there could be changes, but after the meeting, she stood by the five percent violent crime reduction goal as the most reasonable expectation.
“Our five percent goal was based on the data. You make informed decisions with data and information,” Hall said.