DALLAS -- With the number of murders climbing in the city of Dallas, Mayor Mike Rawlings urged the police department Monday to step up efforts to track down and catch known domestic violence abusers.
“I’m asking Chief [David] Brown today to redouble those efforts,” he said during a Monday news conference at City Hall. “We’ve got to dial it up to the next level.”
Last month, the police department launched a special task force of 100 officers to serve arrest warrants. Often, the suspect flees after a victim calls to report an abusive family member. An arrest warrant is then issued for the suspect, but officers sometimes can’t track them down.
“I'm asking that these warrants are given the highest priority along with murders in this city,” Rawlings said. “This is not going to be at the bottom of the heap. We're going to take it right to the top.”
Murders connected to domestic violence in Dallas more than doubled last year to 26, from 10 the year before.
The issue became strikingly clear last week when Karen Smith, 40, was shot and killed in a parking garage after leaving work at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Police say her husband, Ferdinand Smith, 41, waited for her by her car and opened fire.
Weeks earlier, Karen Smith had called police on her husband for nearly strangling her in her driveway. An arrest warrant was issued for Smith, but officers didn’t find him until after his wife’s murder.
“It would be a mischaracterization to say that the officers weren't doing everything they could do to try and make an arrest,” Chief Brown said, adding his officers were in contact with Karen Smith but were having trouble finding her husband.
The case has focused fresh attention on arrest warrants that are never served.
Last year, 4,277 arrest warrants were issued in Dallas for suspects in domestic violence cases. Chief Brown said his officers were able to find close to 80 percent of those suspects.
“It’s those 20 percent that hide from us that we want to redouble our efforts in order to be able to put them in jail,” Brown told News 8.
He said he’s asking his officers to urge family members, witnesses and victims to reveal more information about whereabouts of suspects.
“That’s a lot of people to track down,” Rawlings said. “That's why we've got to redouble our effort to make sure we re-prioritize those warrants.”
The pledge didn’t impress activist Debra Bowles, who founded Women Called Moses, a support group for domestic violence victims.
“I just think it’s the good old boys talking,” she said, adding more needs to be done for the victims themselves.
“Where are they going to go? Call the shelters, they’re at capacity,” she said. “It’s not serious until a woman is in her grave, dead, and then they want to call a press conference. Why can't we have these press conferences before it gets to this point?”