The 2020 goal was 5% Dallas violent crime reduction citywide that critics found too modest, but the year-end numbers Thursday show an increase, led by spikes in murder and aggravated assault.
As of Thursday morning, the count was 249 murders, a 23% increase from 2019 when the number of killings was already the highest in more than a decade.
More than 5,900 aggravated assaults not related to family violence in 2020 were a 27% increase from 2019 and 2,030 family violence assaults as of Thursday morning were a 13% increase from 2019.
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Murder 249 occurred Wednesday night around 11:45 p.m. at the Super 7 Motel on Independence Drive near Camp Wisdom Road and I-20 in far Southern Dallas.
Police said Christopher Miles, 37, was stabbed to death by a 50-year old suspect who was arrested and charged with murder.
Murder 248 happened around 8:20 p.m. Wednesday at an apartment complex on Ridgecrest Road in the 5 Points area of Northwest Dallas.
A man with no identification was found with multiple gunshot wounds. He died later at the hospital. The medical examiner was working Thursday to locate the man’s relatives.
Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata, also a Northwest Division Patrol Sergeant, said he understands that residents expected crime reduction this year.
“They expect lower crime. They should not expect a 15 year high in violent crime and murders, so absolutely lowering crime should have been expected,” Mata said.
The city’s highest crime numbers were in the Southeast Patrol Division, where poverty is also a challenger.
A coalition of faith leaders in the Fair Park area of that division asked for more police presence to reduce crime.
Pastor Todd Atkins of the Salem Institutional Baptist Church is the coalition leader.
“I wish that we were nowhere near where we are right now, so there is disappointment in our community that crime, particularly homicide and violence is on the rise and not seeing that big reduction,” Atkins said.
Atkins and Mata said words this week from new Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia, just hired from San Jose, California, are encouraging.
In a virtual press conference Monday, Garcia said violent crime reduction will be his top priority.
“I will take a reduction personally and it's not just the numbers. It's the perception of crime. Both the perception and the numbers have to go in a better direction,” Garcia said.
The new chief, who officially starts in Dallas on February 1st, promised to work closely with community leaders and to boost patrol presence.
“So I'm very excited that some of the things that we have been hoping and praying for, that's going to be high on his priority list,” Pastor Atkins said. “But again, on the other hand, there must be consistent community engagement and we as citizens, we have a responsibility to partner with our police officers.”
Pastor Atkins cautioned that presence must come with sensitivity.
“If I only see you with your light flashing behind me and I never see you just waving in your car, then that’s where we get the sense that there’s harassment and not engagement,” he said.
Atkins hopes to see a return to the community policing approach Dallas Police promoted before a drastic drop in manpower a few years ago.
“The community policing model was a wonderful model in our community when you get to know who is policing your area,” Atkins said.
And Atkins worries that new leaders always tour the community when they arrive, but may not return.
“We want to have a seat at the table and a constant voice where we’re not just in the room, but we’re at the table to make sure there is engagement,” Atkins said.
Garcia has California experience in many aspects of policing, in patrol, SWAT and as a homicide detective. He also promised to better communicate with Dallas officers about his crime-fighting vision and his range of experience may help him do it.
“If they don't feel that you have their back, if they don't feel that you support them, if they don't feel that the internal processes in place are fair, no plan will work,” Garcia said.
Mata said those remarks made officers feel there will be better relations with department leadership.
“Yes, they really are optimistic. I think it was very good that Chief Garcia put that message out to the troops,” Mata said. “How are we going to engage the community and earn back their trust and move this city forward and do it safely together.”
Mata said outgoing Chief U. Renee Hall’s strategies might have worked better if there had been more flexibility about different neighborhoods.
“Every part of the city has to be policed a little bit different because the community’s needs are a little bit different,” Mata said.
And the union leader said officers must do their part to respect citizens and their needs to achieve better progress on crime in 2021.