Authorities fingerpoint over blame in Dallas housing vouchers chaos

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by REBECCA LOPEZ

Bio | Email | Follow: @rlopezwfaa

WFAA

Posted on July 15, 2011 at 12:21 AM

DALLAS - A dangerous scene played out early Thursday morning as thousands of people hoping for Section 8 vouchers ran for a spot in line.

Officials knew the crowd was coming, so why weren't they prepared?
   
There seems to be a lot of finger pointing. Dallas Sheriff's Office says the Dallas Police Department should have been in charge of crowd control. DPD says they weren't even included in the planning so were caught off guard when chaos broke out in the morning.

"From our end, everything ran smoothly," said Kim Leach, Dallas County Sheriff's Office.

However, there were 5,000 people running for a place in line in an attempt to get their chance at only 100 available vouchers. Several people fell and some were stepped on and shoved during the stampede. Among those in the chaotic crowd were children.

"People were pushing and fighting," said Jordan Spivey, a Dallas County resident.

Spivey was scraped up and bruised.

"Everybody just started running," she said. "And I mean, I just saw people run and I slipped and fell over the pavement, skinned my knee, my elbow and lost a cell phone battery."

The question is how did this get so out of control. The Sheriff's Office said it was prepared for large numbers and its officers did their jobs.

"Our job was to make sure there was an orderly line, to make sure they stay in line and to keep everybody calm," Leach said.

Leach said the problem was on the streets and crowd control.

"DPD was doing the street side, so I know there was a rush from over there as people were trying to be first in line," she said.

DPD said it wasn't their operation and weren't included in the planning so they had no response teams or traffic officers out there. The problem, they said, started when organizers didn't open up the parking lot to the facility early enough, which caused major traffic jams and created the large crowd across the street.

Thursday afternoon, the director of Dallas County Health and Human Services downplayed what happened..

In April, the Dallas Housing Authority had a computer problem while handing out the vouchers. The computers accidentally erased an entire day's worth of applications, which meant 15,000 applications were just gone. It turned out the software couldn't handle the volume of entries.

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