Dallas Chief of Police Eddie Garcia says he has enough people to launch his new violent crime plan, but ultimately the city needs more officers.
“It wouldn’t be credible to tell you we have enough police officers right now. But we need to grow responsibly,” Garcia said.
Dallas currently has around 3,100 officers compared with the high of 3,690 in 2011.
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The remarks from Garcia, who began his tenure as chief in February, followed discussions this week about his new crime plan with Mayor Eric Johnson and members of the Dallas City Council.
Johnson expressed frustration with the city’s rising crime and his disappointment with past crime plans that failed address the problem.
“I've looked through your plan and I want to say this: This is more like it,” Johnson said.
Garcia has planned a new approach to target crime hot spots.
”They’re smaller footprints, smaller grids. And it’s based on visibility. And it’s based on targeting repeat violent offenders in those areas. But it’s targeted. It’s not dragnet. It’s not stop and frisk. It’s not oversaturation," Garcia said. "The message we’re sending to the rank and file is not to stop everyone in that grid just because you’re in that grid. It’s very focused in terms of intelligence."
Garcia heard praise but also worries from City Council members that manpower to target hot spots would come at the expense of the thin staff of officers in other parts of the city, where residents also have crime concerns.
“All our residents are not feeling safe. There's a perception that we're not as safe as we should be,” Councilmember Jennifer Gates said.
Garcia said existing substations will juggle manpower to get his plan started without sending officers across town but that he and City Manager T.C. Broadnax have been discussing the expansion of the force.
Garcia’s plan also embraces social programs that council members also like to help prevent crime.
Several members asked Broadnax how the city would pay for it.
“No one is proposing a tax increase at this point, but it’s wonderful that everyone is supportive of adding more resources. But obviously having to pay for them is always a challenge and so we’ll have to balance that. We want a lot of things. We can’t afford everything,” Broadnax said.
Johnson has said lowering the Dallas property tax rate, which is higher than some other North Texas cities, is also a future priority for him in addition to reducing violent crime.
“The stakes are incredibly high for our city right now,” Johnson said.
Johnson was unhappy last year with a crime reduction goal of 5% put forth by former Chief U. Renee Hall, which the mayor said was too modest.
Now, in the third straight year of rising violent crime, Garcia is putting no specific reduction figure on his plan.
“We didn't get into this mess overnight. We're not going to get out of it overnight," Garcia said. "So my goal is to make that trend, from this point forward, plateau and drop and go in the same opposite direction. That is our goal."
Garcia said details are going out to officers now so he can begin to make changes next week.