A year after it was disbanded, an entirely new Dallas Police Vice Squad will begin training Wednesday.
It is none too soon for neighbors who say the lack of vice enforcement has been a plague on some neighborhoods.
James Craig, the manager of Dennis Road Automotive, said hookers and their John’s were lurking between cars outside his business as it opened Monday morning, even in the cold weather.
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“They’re here every day,” he said. “They’ll see us come in and then they’ll start wandering off, down this street.”
Craig said police have told him prostitutes ride DART Rail to work the area around Royal Lane and Harry Hines Boulevard.
Dallas City Council Member Jennifer Gates represents the area around Craig’s business.
“Where these activities are happening, it impacts the whole neighborhood,” Gates said.
So Gates was anxious to hear details about why the old Vice Unit was disbanded and how a new Vice Squad will operate.
Assistant Chief Paul Stokes said no criminal violations were sustained against the former unit of 28 officers but discipline is still possible over administrative violations that were found.
“These were very severe allegations on evidence handling, property, money,” Stokes said.
The new unit will include 21 officers who were not in vice enforcement before to provide a clean start. The plan is to partner with social service agencies that would help get help for people involved in prostitution instead of just arresting them. Officers would be trained to write certain citations for diversion to municipal community courts and alternative sentencing or counseling instead of jail time.
“We’re going to train them on a different approach of accountability, compliance and a victim centered approach when it comes to prostitution,” Stokes said. “We’re engaging a force multiplier to get them to help us before we have to engage and make arrests to correct the behavior.”
City Council Members had mixed reactions.
Sandy Greyson said she supports diversion of victims but was concerned about categorizing customers of prostitutes as victims.
“I just can see the John as being a victim,” Greyson said.
Philip Kingston said diversion programs have been included in the past. He wanted ways to measure success of the new plan.
“I’m curious about how this new system is so much better than the old,” Kingston said.
Public Safety Committee Chairman Adam McGough, a former Community Court prosecutor, said he shared Kingston’s interest in measuring success. McGough called for criminal enforcement of human trafficking.
“This becomes an international issue real quickly,” McGough said.
Gates tangible changes in the program were unclear aside from philosophical differences.
“I’m just not hearing today, this is how we’re going to tackle it, this is how we’re going to measure it, and evaluate our success,” Gates said.
Chief U. Renee Hall and Assistant Chief Stokes asked for time to train the new officers and demonstrate success. Council Members said they will be watching.
Businessman Craig said he is optimistic about a reduction in vice with a new squad back in business.
“I think there would be a lot less of it going on,” Craig said. “I’m real excited about them coming back because I think it’s going to really help the area.”
Craig said he also supports diversion programs for people involved in vice to help them get a better life, as long as it also gets them out of his neighborhood.