DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson presented detailed recommendations by his Mayor’s Task Force on Safe Communities to combat violent crime on Thursday.
During a news conference at City Hall, the Mayor expressed outrage at the deadly shooting of 1-year-old Rory Norman who was inside his home.
“We cannot sit idly by as children are killed,” Mayor Johnson said.
He said as a father of two young boys and as someone who grew up in the city, the violent crime problem is personal to him and that too many people have become crime victims.
“I’ve seen too many people of color especially many black youth who looked just like I looked in the 1990s.”
Mayor Johnson said the four main recommendations do not involve law enforcement efforts, but instead are based on successful programs in other large cities such as Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago.
They include remediating blighted buildings and abandoned lots in high violence locations, adding outdoor lighting where night time violence is most severe, utilizing schools to teach kids to pause before they act, and hiring and training credible messengers from within high-violence neighborhoods to help resolve conflicts peacefully.
Alex Piquero, a criminology professor at UT Dallas, was on the Mayor’s Task Force. “What we have seen so far is that they have been translatable and transferable across big cities with big city problems and I have very strong faith we can pull it off here.”
A group of eight criminologists from across the country endorsed the recommendations.
Mayor Johnson said the report has the full support and weight of the Mayor’s office behind it. “I want to see these recommendations implemented. They are reasonable, they are backed by research, and they are worth our time and our money.”
The Mayor said he would be meeting with the business and philanthropic communities to ask them to help pay for the suggested programs.
Hours after his news conference, he tweeted a photo of him meeting with a group of philanthropists.
He and others at the news conference said the recommendations are achievable.
Johnson said combining the Task Force recommendations with the Dallas Police Department’s plan to reduce violent crime should produce results. “I believe we can in five years, reach the record-lows for violent crime that this city had in 2013 and 2014, and that should be our goal.”
The question now is how will the Task Force recommendations be implemented.
One of three Task Force co-chairs, Alan Cohen said, “This still needs operational plans that are going to need to be implemented by whoever’s leading the front line for each one of the recommendations.”
Mayor Johnson highlighted a Task Force suggestion that every committee of the City Council should review how these recommendations flow through with what they’re doing and what they contribute to solving the problem. “We are going to have these conversations within these walls here, the City Manager will certainly be involved.”
Council Member Adam McGough, Chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee said, “Different pieces are going to come through at different times to see the implementation of each one.
But the question is perfect because without implementation it doesn’t make much difference.”
He said the recommendations would only be effective if the community is behind them. “Every single person in this city has a role in this plan.”
Mayor Johnson also criticized Chief Renee Hall’s plan to reduce violent crime, which she released last week, saying it wasn’t bold enough. “A five percent reduction in violent crime after the year we just had is simply not going to cut it for me. I made my expectations clear to the City Manager and to the Police Chief.”
CBS 11 asked the Dallas Police Department if Chief Hall had a response, but there was no response Thursday evening.
She has called it a living document, so there could be changes.
Chief Hall has been holding listening sessions with community members about her five year plan for the department.
On Monday afternoon, she will brief Dallas City Council Members on the Public Safety Committee about her plan to reduce violent crime.
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