The Dallas mayor and police chief rolled out a new plan Monday to combat domestic violence, which continues to increase even as overall violent crime appears to be edging lower.
“As long as I’m mayor of this great city, we’re going to make this a top priority,” Mayor Eric Johnson said.
Police records show aggravated assault family violence is up nearly 1% this year through Oct. 6 on top of a 14% increase last year.
The new plan calls for more domestic violence detectives, new domestic violence enforcement training for all officers and a referral of repeat offender cases involving guns to federal court for tougher sentencing.
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Police chief Eddie Garcia said the new city budget that calls for 250 more officers allows the new approach.
“This would not be possible if we did not have the proper resources and funding to be able to do this,” he said.
Former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings made the fight against domestic violence a priority in his administration.
A 2015 task force report made several recommendations, some of which were adopted, but the number of incidents has still increased.
Former Dallas City Council Member Jennifer Gates, who was active in the domestic violence issue during her eight-year term, is now the leader of Mayor Johnson’s Domestic Violence Advisory Council.
Gates said domestic violence may have been under reported the past two years because offenders were often sheltered at home with victims, so the numbers may not reflect the true extent of the problem.
Gates said a lack of police manpower also made it difficult to accomplish past recommendations.
“We were down police officers. We’ve been down detectives. It’s always been a priority,” Gates said.
The new plan calls for adding five more detectives to the current domestic violence unit staff of 41 officers and civilians.
“With these added resources and added attention, yeah, it’s going to build on the recommendations that the advocates have asked for,” Gates said.
The plan will also promote home visits to offenders and victims to offer them help and reduce the chance that family violence assault elevates to homicide.
Garcia said the message for family violence perpetrators is the same as the message he wants to send with the rest of his violent crime strategy.
“We are not going to tolerate violence in our city. And if you perpetrate violence, we’re going to use every tool imaginable to make sure you don’t harm our city any more,” Garica said. “We want to help you get out of that. It isn’t about making more arrests. It’s about solving the problem and ensuring that we don’t have victimization of our city.”
Lt. Kylee Hawks, the unit commander, said three quarters of the 13,000 domestic violence offenses in the past year involved people in intimate relationships, so the unit will put a greater focus on those offenders.
“The victims of intimate partner violence are at higher risk of lethality and being injured by their partner every day,” Hawks said.
Hawks said the majority of her expanded unit will focus on intimate partner violence.
“We work to get those high-risk offenders apprehended and we work really strongly with the (district attorney's) office to make sure those offenders are held accountable,” Hawks said.
Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee Chairman Adam McGough said much of the domestic violence problem occurs behind closed doors, out of public sight.
“But the implications that we see in our schools, our churches, our communities, is taking effect all over our city, it is a drastic impact,” he said.
McGough’s committee will review the new plan at a meeting Tuesday.