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Dallas police's vice unit dismantled amid investigation

Most of the burden is now on patrol division and narcotics detectives who are not trained to deal with vice cases.

Last month Chief Renee Hall disbanded the vice unit while internal affairs investigated possible policy violations.

But, the dismantling of the unit leaves hundreds of cases from human trafficking to illegal gambling in limbo. The vice unit is critical in keeping crime down in neighborhoods.

Caleb Flores’ family restaurant sits right next to a building where Dallas police vice officers were investigating illegal gambling.

"At all hours of the night they have people. There are a lot of people that go and play games there then come over here and cause trouble with staff and harass us,” said Flores.

Illegal gambling brings other problems to neighborhoods.

That’s why experts say it’s critical to shut these places down.

"You need to keep the gambling knocked down so you can address some of the violent crime that comes with it. Violence of individuals, robberies of businesses and aggravated assaults,” said former Assistant Chief Randy Blankenbaker.

Chief Renee Hall disbanded the unit in a controversial move.

Hundreds of gambling, sex trafficking and liquor violation complaints and cases were re-assigned to overwhelmed detectives in other divisions. Most of the burden is now on patrol division and narcotics detectives who are not trained to deal with vice cases.

"The narcotics unit is tasked with these right now but they are tasked with dealing with drugs too and that is placing a tremendous burden on officers who are tasked to do this,” said Dallas Fraternal Order of Police President, Mike Walton.

Dallas Police tell WFAA there are 11 significant gambling cases that narcotics officers now have to finish investigating.

They also say they are searching their databases for other cases that need to be prosecuted before they fall through the cracks.

Former Assistant Chief Randy Blankenbaker says the people impacted most by the move are citizens.

“When you look at where these things happen when the vice unit is needed it’s in the same underserved neighborhoods typically by people of color who are disproportionately affected by violent crime,” said Blankenbaker.

Chief Hall hired an outside company to assess the vice unit’s practices.

Former Asst. Chief Gary Tittle and former Deputy Chief Gil Garza were the ones who discovered the problems and were making significant changes before Hall demoted them.

Flores says he fears things will get worse near his restaurant with no vice unit.

“It’s definitely open season on illicit substances, women of all kinds and other stuff. There is no end to that when it’s going on,” said Flores.

It’s important to note DPD criminal investigators cleared the vice officers of any criminal wrongdoing and as of yet, internal affairs has not determined if they violated any procedures.

Full statement from DPD on the issue:

Since VICE was disbanded, 11 gambling cases have been received and have been assigned to Narcotics for follow up.

Cases involving prostitution have been assigned to the respective patrol divisions. Some of this follow up includes operations such as the quarterly prostitution diversion initiatives, the most recent one having taken place on December 6th. This operation took place in the Northeast, Northwest and North Central patrol divisions. Additionally, High Risk Victims detectives are investigating all human trafficking complaints in addition to assisting in the investigation of prostitution complaints.

Personnel in the Narcotics Division are also reviewing the investigative database to determine if an open and ongoing case needs to be reassigned for prosecution. We continue to work diligently to investigate all VICE related complaints in a timely fashion.

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