Dallas Police Confront Spike in Violent Crime as Summer Approaches

Police push crime prevention programs for youth as alternatives to gangs

Dallas Police Friday reported a 13% spike in violent crime so far in 2019 compared with last year. They said aggravated assault blamed on gang rivalry is a big reason.

Police commanders spoke Friday to the Editorial Board of the Dallas Morning News, an NBC 5 media partner.

Assistant Chief David Pughes said 10 additional officers are being transferred to the 25 currently serving in the gang unit to combat the issue.

"We know if we get in front of the gang violence, we might be able to interrupt the retaliation," Pughes said.

Police are also pushing crime prevention programs this summer, including jobs and recreation programs for youth.

"We need to start doing more on the front end so we're not having to make that arrest as a last resort on the back end," Pughes said.

A construction job training program planned this summer at the Cummings Recreation Center is just the sort of thing police support.

"I grew up in this neighborhood. That's the reason I want to bring youth skills back to this neighborhood because we have to start reengaging our youth," said Terri Altmann with a group called Rebirth Empowerment Education. "If we reengage them, they won't have the time to be spending with gangs or committing crimes."

She has partnered with Carpenters Union groups for the job training program to produce much needed construction workers.

Shawn Walker with the Central South Carpenters Regional Council said the apprenticeship program pays participants while they learn.

"We're trying to get them off the streets and give them an opportunity to become successful," he said. "People see success and they want to be a part of success. One of the things the apprenticeship does, it gives them an option to be able to see the success."

James Lewis with the Texas Carpenters and Millwrights Training Trust Fund is a heavy equipment operator.

"It's very good trade that many can take up on and have a good livelihood from it," Lewis said.

Construction workers must be at least 18 years old to work on job sites but the training program is aimed at youth between 16 and 24 as an alternative to neighborhood crime.

"If they see the right way, no need to make money the wrong way," Lewis said.

Next week Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall will announce a summer job program for youth between 14 and 17-years-old with several major employers.

A 2008 briefing for the City Council said Dallas Police budgeted $1.6 million for overtime to flood crime hot spots with officers. Dallas had almost 400 more officers in 2008.

Friday, Hall said police cannot arrest their way out of crime, must be smarter in the use of resources and must rely on partner agencies and resources for help.

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