Dallas Police Under Pressure Over Violent Crime

Some council members say 2020 plan has failed

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Several Dallas city council members pressed Police Chief U. Renee Hall Monday on the results of her 2020 violent crime plan.

“The plan is not working,” council member Cara Mendelsohn said.

Mendelsohn cited 128 homicides so far in 2020, one more than this time in 2019 when the city posted more than 200, the most since the 1990s.

Aggravated Assault not related to family violence is nearly 28% higher in Dallas this year compared to last.

“All I can do is look at the data and look at the strategy and say there is a leadership performance issue and say this plan is not producing and this department is not producing acceptable results,” Mendelsohn said.

In a virtual meeting of the City Council Public Safety Committee Monday, Chief Hall responded from a police headquarters conference table with members of her command staff.

“I don’t think anyone of us at this table are saying we are doing the best job possible. But I do think we need to look across this country,” Hall said. “Every city, every major city is experiencing the same thing that the city of Dallas is experiencing.”

Hall’s briefing document for the committee included information from the 10 largest US cities that show aggravated assault and homicide is up elsewhere, too.

Hall said many of those crimes in Dallas are the result of conflicts that could not be anticipated.

“These are things that will continue to challenge us because we really are not in a position to predict where that is going to happen,” Hall said.

Councilman Adam McGough, the Committee Chairman, is also an attorney and mediator.

“We can't just throw our hands up and say we can't do anything about those. We have to be digging into every layer of this,” McGough said.

He suggested many of the violent crimes may have been committed by people involved in violence in the past.

McGough said it does not feel to him like the violent crime reduction plan is accomplishing the goals the city is trying to accomplish.

Council Member Carolyn Arnold defended Hall. Arnold said she too has confronted situations in her district that could not be predicted.

“And so that’s not something we can resolve here today when we talk about the leadership and why people commit crime,” Arnold said.

Property crimes in Dallas are down substantially. Experts suggest it could be due to so many people staying home during the coronavirus pandemic, looking after their property.

The department briefing said the police Starlight program that installed surveillance cameras connected to headquarters has reduced crime at convenience stores. It is expanding.

Officials said the DORS program that diverts less urgent calls to online reports has freed officers to respond in person to more pressing matters.

And officials said several additional initiatives are underway to combat violent crime through the rest of 2020.

Commanders said the department is targeting repeat offenders and crime at apartments.

Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune said a crisis response team program is in the works.

“A very specific team of individuals who will be available to the Police Department, folks who are trained in social work and conflict resolution, to be able to provide some resources to our community that we don’t have right now,” Fortune said.

A Dallas City Council Budget Workshop is scheduled Tuesday where the police budget and neighborhood improvements to prevent crime are to be discussed.

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