Dallas Police Chief on Hot Seat as She Defends Plan to Fight Violent Crime

Dallas Police Chief U. Renee was on the hot seat at Dallas City Hall Monday, defending her plan to fight violent crime.

Hall said robbery was up, along with a much higher rate of homicide. There have been around 100 murders in Dallas so far this year.

Her visit to city hall came after a statement she made last week that seemed to condone criminals, who leave prison and are unable to find jobs, resorting to violent crime.

Adam McGough, chairman of the Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee was blunt with Hall Monday. McGough said Hall's remarks, along with a smaller police force, slower response times and complaints from citizens about lack of police support, have combined to create an impression of tolerance for crime.

"There's a feeling that, if somebody wants to commit a crime, they can get away with it," McGough said. "We've got to hear a message from you and from our police department that we will not tolerate crime in the city of Dallas, from the lowest level crimes to the highest level crimes."

Hall told McGough she does not tolerate crime.

"We have been focused on violent crime since we walked in the door. We've never been soft on crime. We are not soft on crime," Hall said.

Other city council members voiced concerns, as well.

Jennifer Gates said crime figures showed Dallas has much bigger violent crime problems than neighboring cities.

"I know you're addressing it the best you can, but it's concerning, and a little perplexing, that we're experiencing the kind of levels we are in Dallas," Gates said.

Hall said a staffing study was still unfinished that would help determine exactly how many officers Dallas needed. But current hiring has barely kept up with the number of officers who leave.

Councilman Kevin Felder said his math showed it could take 10 years to return the force to the 600 additional officers it had a few years ago.

"That's untenable," Felder said. "It's unreal that that's going to take that long and it's scary. It really is, that it may take 10 years to get back up to staff."

Adam Medrano said he was pleased to see the chief's plan included attention to the Bachman Lake area.

"That's a large immigrant community and a lot of the crimes do not get reported," Medrano said.

Carolyn Arnold praised the chief's plan to hold additional community meetings to communicate with residents about the situation.

"Relationships are very important, and I believe it's going to take us through this crisis that we are experiencing. Just so much of the fear that so many people have," Arnold said.

McGough said the Public Safety Committee had made great efforts to support reforms in community relations, including a stronger citizen oversight board and a behavioral health clinic to help people with mental health problems stay out of jail.

"We're looking at every single avenue we possibly can on this front, but we're not seeming to increase the accountability side of this thing," he said. "And I don't think the accountability and reform are exclusive, in fact I think they're dependent on one another."

McGough complained Hall's violent crime plan lacked measurable goals.

Hall said most of this year's murders were person-to-person disputes over which police have no control and couldn't influence.

"But the things that we have control over are those gangs, guns and drugs," she said. "We do have a robbery issue and we're focused on it and we're going to use our resources, our summer crime initiative, our support from the state, to actively go after those individuals and bring them to justice."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott promised to support Dallas police with state troopers and other Texas Department of Public Safety personnel, but officials declined to say how many extra state resources would be involved, claiming that would tip off criminals.

Monday, Dallas police also discussed an expanded online reporting system for property crimes so citizens would not have to wait for officers who were very slow to respond to property crimes.

Dallas police also encouraged businesses to connect their surveillance cameras to a new Starlight program that would give police access to video from a crime scene while officers make their way to the location.

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