Mayor Eric Johnson is demanding a plan by the end of the year to reduce crime in Dallas.
In a hard-bitten letter to City Manager T.C. Broadnax that highlights a rash of statistics illustrating violent crime, Johnson on Tuesday set a high expectation for the Police Department in 2020 to work “more aggressively and transparently.”
The letter contains the mayor’s most outspoken comments about the department’s response to rising crime, especially since he put his faith in Police Chief U. Reneé Hall as violent crime increased and the deployment of Texas state troopers brought complaints early in his term.
Hall and Broadnax did not respond to requests for comment. Broadnax hired Hall in September 2017.
So far this year there have been 194 homicides, with the city well on track for its highest number of homicides in more than a decade. Also, assaults involving guns are up about 27% from last year, according to the Police Department’s crime dashboard, while robberies are up 15%.
Terrance Hopkins, president of the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas, said in an interview that the uptick in crime is “not normal” but that crime spikes are not uncommon in big cities such as Dallas. Hopkins said the crime rate isn’t Hall’s responsibility.
“There’s different factors that play into that,” he said. “I don’t think one entity is to blame.”
Hopkins said he thinks the mayor is simply trying to get up to date on the crime plan for 2020.
“I don’t see anything wrong with this ask,” Hopkins said. “He does deserve to have a plan.”
But Johnson didn’t mince words.
In his letter, the mayor said the City Council “cannot continue to accept the status quo or tolerate excuses” about violent crime. The letter came with a tight deadline for Hall to present the crime-reduction plan by the end of the year and to brief the council’s Public Safety Committee in January.
“I do not believe the City Council has received a sufficiently clear explanation of what is driving this increase or what the police department’s specific plan is to reverse it,” Johnson said in his letter.
In a meeting with The Dallas Morning News editorial board last month, Hall defended the department’s response to crime. She said that the deployment of Texas Department of Public Safety troopers was transparent and that the Police Department had held several meetings with neighborhood associations to inform them of the increased enforcement.
After 9-year-old Brandoniya Bennett was killed when a gunman fired into her family’s apartment in August, Johnson created a community-led public safety task force to help find ways to address the root causes of crime. He touted the task force as a supplement to the Police Department. In his letter Tuesday, Johnson acknowledged that crime is complex and dynamic and that police can’t be solely responsible for fighting it.
Still, Johnson said he wants specific Police Department timelines and strategies for crime reduction. He also asked that the department change its current crime reports.
Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, agreed Tuesday that the department needs a better plan for fighting crime. Instead of short-term crime initiatives, Mata said, patrol commanders in each division should have the autonomy to use their patrol resources.
“I don’t think Chief Hall has had a clear mission,” Mata said. “Because crime happens in peaks and bounds, it has to be attacked quickly.”
Council members also weighed in on the letter.
Adam Bazaldua, South Dallas’ council member, spoke out about the deployment of DPS troopers after residents in his district complained.
“I am very pleased with the leadership and the aggressive stance taken by the mayor to address our public safety issue that is very evident and very evidently not being addressed,” he said in an interview with The News. “I do think that it is obvious that I wasn’t the biggest fan of DPD’s approach with the summer violent-crime initiative. But here we are with no comprehensive plan. … I am just really happy and pleased to see the mayor also sees the same thing.”
Adam McGough, chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, said that the letter was written without council members’ input but that it speaks to concerns that are shared across districts.
“I think the mayor is expressing the frustration a lot of us have had and the impact crime is having in our communities all over the city,” he said.
McGough said he had repeatedly asked Broadnax and Hall for specific metrics and strategies for dealing with the spike in crime but, so far, had seen little in the way of a response.
“An increase in violent crime is not unique to Dallas,” he said. “It’s happening in other cities across the country. But the responses different cities have had are across the spectrum. There are a lot of good ideas out there, and it’s not hard to find them.”