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'I have some concerns': Dallas mayor says of police chief's 2020 crime plan

The 26-page report was sent to city leaders on New Year’s Eve in response to the mayor’s request for a comprehensive crime-fighting plan by the end of the year.

Updated at 3:15 p.m. with comments from the mayor and council members.

Police Chief Reneé Hall’s 2020 crime plan includes increasing the number of investigators working for the Dallas Police Department, adding civilian analysts and establishing a 100-member violent crime reduction team. 

The 26-page report was sent to city leaders on New Year’s Eve in response to the mayor’s request for a comprehensive crime-fighting plan by the end of the year. 

The document is the first written report detailing Hall’s crime-fighting plan during her two-year tenure as chief. 

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson called the plan "a start." 

He said he was pleased to see the chief refer to the crime reduction plan as a "living document" because he has "some concerns that I hope to see addressed in the coming weeks." 

The mayor said in a written statement that the goal to reduce crime doesn't go far enough. 

Crime statistics from Jan. 1 through Dec. 30 show violent crime increased dramatically compared to 2018. There was a 14% increase in robberies and a 19% increase in aggravated assaults, the statistics show.

The city had also recorded more than 209 homicides in 2019, a 30% increase over 2018.

The chief’s plan acknowledges those increases and sets a goal to reduce all violent crime across the city by 5% this year compared to last year. 

"We should strive to reduce homicides, aggravated assaults, and robberies to 2018 levels citywide, at least," Johnson said in the statement. "And over the next five years, our aim should be to reduce violent crime back to the historic lows this city saw in 2013 and 2014." 

'No panacea'

The mayor sent a letter in early December to City Manager T.C. Broadnax calling the increase in crime in 2019 “patently unacceptable.” 

Johnson said he and the Dallas City Council had not been given a “sufficiently clear explanation” about what had driven the increase in crime last year. 

RELATED: Dallas mayor calls increase in crime 'patently unacceptable'

“We acknowledge ‘no panacea’ for crime exists; however, identifying the people, places and behaviors that influence crime, will allow officers to work proactively to address trends and patterns,” Hall wrote in a letter to Broadnax, which accompanied the plan sent to council members.

The document provides a chart of the violent crime rates for some of the nation's most populous cities. Five of the 10 cities, including Dallas, saw increases year over year.

But what the document doesn’t say is that the crime rate increase in Dallas outpaced the others. 

Dallas’ violent crime increased by 15.3% – jumping from 457.2 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2018 to 527.4 per 100,000 residents in 2019.

By comparison, San Antonio had the second-highest violent crime rate increase of 6.2%. New York City came in with a 2.5% increase, Philadelphia at 3.8% and Houston showed a just less than 1% increase.

By contrast, the Las Vegas Metro area showed a 13% decline in its crime rate. Phoenix recorded a 6% decline in its crime rate. 

The Dallas crime reduction report states that 73% of the city’s violent crime numbers were confined to the southeast, southwest, south-central and northeast patrol divisions. The city’s southern patrol divisions saw the “most significant increases in aggravated assaults” while “northeast and southwest patrol were most significantly impacted by robberies.”

Hall set the goal of reducing murders and aggravated assaults by 10% in the southeast, southwest and south-central patrol divisions. It also sets the goal to reduce individual and business robberies in northeast and southwest divisions by 10% compared to 2019’s numbers for those areas. 

Main objectives of the crime plan: 

  • Identify “people, places and behaviors” connected with violent crime through data analysis 
  • Increase clearance rates by adding detectives
  • Improve external communication by having clear crime statistics 
  • Optimize department resources, including adding civilian jobs 

Current initiatives 

The document sent to the City Council spends about seven pages highlighting what the department has already been doing.

Among them is a violent crime initiative in the central patrol division that involves partnering with Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the Dallas Housing Authority. The report also mentions the summer crime initiative which included bringing in state troopers to help out the understaffed Police Department. 

The plan says that since the summer initiative ended, it has been deploying members of the tactical units to “ensure continued crime reductions."

The department says a fugitive apprehension initiative that targeted violent offenders was so successful that they plan to expand it using targeted warrant roundups.

But there is great skepticism among some members of the department that the situation can turn around.

Right now, there are 11 detectives assigned to the assault units, down from more than 20 detectives in the early 2000s. Detectives in the unit currently average three to six cases a day, in addition to ensuring cases are filed with prosecutors on suspects currently in jail. 

“When it comes to assaults, we’re probably the most overworked detectives up there,” said an assault detective, who asked not to be identified because the detective feared retaliation. “It’s triage. You work the ones that you can work. The other ones, they have to wait.”

The detective said a high caseload isn’t the only problem. The cameras in some of the interview rooms don’t work. The cars they drive have high miles and frequently break down.

“We’ve gotten four emails about wearing a tie,” the investigator said. “They’re more concerned about me wearing a tie than fixing our equipment.”

Council support

Some Dallas council members said they remain supportive of the chief despite the increases in crime in 2019. And they said they want to see how Hall's plan will work. 

Councilmember Casey Thomas told WFAA that he had looked at the chief's crime reduction plan, but had not had a chance to thoroughly review it.

“On first glance, I think it can be an effective strategy to reduce the violent crime that we’ve had,” he said.

He said he is also looking forward to seeing the mayor's task force report.

In August, the mayor announced the formation of a violent crime task force to seek "data-driven solutions for communities disproportionately affected by violent crime." 

Thomas believes the chief’s plan and the recommendations from the task force could help the city could create an effective model for reducing violent crime.

He said he supports Hall and acknowledges that the problems in the Police Department were handed to her. 

"Some of the challenges that we have existed prior to her coming," he said. 

Councilman Lee Kleinman said he has read the plan and wants to see how it is implemented. 

"We will know once it’s been in place a couple of months whether it’s effective or not," Kleinman said. 

He said he remains "very supportive" of Hall. 

"She's doing a good job," Kleinman said. "She's done great outreach to the community." 

Data-driven

The chief’s plan relies heavily on data, the report says. 

The Police Department will create an “intelligence-led policing division” that will include hiring 22 civilian crime analysts by the spring to monitor surveillance footage, automatic license plate readers and other crime data. 

The department will also create a 100-member violent crime reduction team, which will include personnel from the narcotics, gangs, fugitive and investigative units. The plan does not state how moving those officers and detectives will impact their individual units. 

RELATED: Dallas Police Department launches new surveillance camera program in crime hot spots

The plan says the department will use “specialized teams” for warrant roundups, something police already do. As part of that effort, the department will track metrics, including how many people have been arrested, how long those people remain in jail and whether they commit new crimes once released.

In addition to improving data tracking, Hall says she plans to add at least 10 detectives a year to increase the clearance rates. 

"Improving caseload among detectives will increase clearance rates," the report says. 

The Dallas clearance rate for solving robberies is 17%, well below the national average of 30%, according to the crime reduction plan. 

It's unclear how the detectives would be added. The department has struggled with retention for several years and the police force hovers around 3,000 officers, hundreds below its highest staffing levels. 

Part of the crime plan details how reorganizing staffing will free up officers to focus on responding to calls, making arrests and investigating crimes. 

The plan says that people have filed 6,381 police reports online since the department launched the portal in June, saving "6,000 hours of police patrol reallocated to emergency patrol operations." The plan also calls for an increase in civilian positions, including possibly filling 95 positions currently held by sworn officers.

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