DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Amid a spike in murders and other violent crime, Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall insisted Monday she and the Dallas Police Department remain focused on fighting crime.
“We have never been soft on crime. We are not soft on crime,” she said.
Chief Hall responded to a comment from the committee Chair Adam McGough who told her, “There’s a feeling that if someone wants to commit a crime, they can get away with it. We’ve got to hear a message from you and from our police department that we will not tolerate crime in the city of Dallas.”
Chief Hall rejected that perception.
“Nothing in my leadership, nothing in our day to day activities has ever led this community to believe that we are anything other than focused on crime of all levels in this community. Lew Sterrett (the Dallas County Jail) is open, we are making the arrests. My troops know that. My command staff know that, and I believe the community knows that.”
Last week, Chief Hall caused an uproar when she said during a news conference when she said, “There are individuals in this city who have returned from prison who cannot find a job, who are not educated. In those instances, those individuals are forced to commit violent acts.”
A short time later, the Chief issued a statement, “Today, my point was simple – there is no excuse for crime. Crime in general however, is on the rise in Dallas for many reasons. One of them being a lack of resources and opportunity.”
Chief Hall briefed council members about her department’s response to the recent crime surge.
She said if the trend continues, Dallas could be on pace to have approximately 228 murders this year.
The Chief told council members, “That’s why our enforcement efforts are so important to make sure we don’t hit those numbers moving forward.”
Last month alone, Dallas Police said there were 40 murders, and that between January 1 and May 31 of this year, there were 97 murders.
Of those 97, the department says 29 were related to an argument, 20 to family violence, 17 to robbery, eight drug related, and one connected to gang violence.
Twenty-two of the murders had an unknown origin.
Chief Hall said the department’s efforts targeting gangs, drugs, and guns have been effective. “That lets us know what we have in place, the gangs, guns, and drugs focus we’ve had been focused on since day one has worked because we’re seeing fewer numbers in relation to that.
But she acknowledged there’s more to do. “We do have a robbery issue and we’re going to use our resources, our summer crime initiative our assistance and support from the state to actively go after those individuals, and bring them to justice.”
The department has instituted its summer crime initiative and a homicide task force, and Governor Greg Abbott has directed Texas DPS to help DPD investigate murders and robberies among other things.
Chief Hall also told council members the department needs more officers.
For the first time in months, those on the committee asked her about the staffing study being conducted by KPMG to determine how many officers the department needs.
Chief Hall told reporters after the meeting she and her command staff are still figuring that out.
“Is that 600 more? Is it 1,000 more? Is it 300 more? Is it 450? We’re looking for the staffing study to tell us exactly what that is.”
She said she will present the study’s findings to the Public Safety Committee in early August, when council returns from July recess.
The Chief told council members, DPD has hired 137 officers this year, seven more than the same time period last year.
But the problem is they’re not keeping up with attrition.
During that same time, 158 officers have left the department.
The Council’s Public Safety Chair Adam McGough released this statement Monday night:
“It is the first job of our City to ensure the safety of our residents. Right now, our neighbors do not feel safe, and the recent increase in violent crimes furthers that narrative. I am thankful for the efforts of the Dallas Police Department, and I believe our officers are working tirelessly to protect and serve our communities.
Chief Hall has made efforts to pull together a strategy to decrease violent crime, and I support the steps discussed in the briefing today. However, the underlying causes still must be addressed. A perception problem exists in our City where some believe offenders will not get caught, they will not be prosecuted, or there are certain conditions that excuse criminal behavior. We must course correct now. We need our entire community, including our City leadership, law enforcement, advocates, churches, and neighbors, to come together to declare crime will not be tolerated.
As a City, we must address the systemic racist policies that have segregated our communities and denied opportunities based on ignorance and geography. We must focus resources on youth activities, education, housing, jobs, transportation and real policy reform without undercutting the fact that every crime deserves justice. Accountability and reform are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they are dependent. Once we all speak with unwavering resolve, we will see crime reduction in our city.
We have very real issues facing our police department – recruiting, retention, and morale. All demand transparent strategies and measured goals. Let’s learn from other cities across the country who have done this successfully. How many local and state officers do we need? Where and how should we deploy them? What changes are needed with field training and investigations? What additional technology and equipment is needed? We must address short term goals of remediating crime while designing strategies to address prevention and long-term impact.
The City of Dallas is poised to lead the way on positive reforms and community engagement, but we will only be successful with intentional strategies and with an unwavering resolve to put the safety of our citizens above all else.”