DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall found herself in the hot seat Monday at City Hall.
She defended her plan to reduce violent crime this year amid continued criticism by Mayor Eric Johnson and various council members.
During a council Public Safety Committee meeting, attended by the Mayor and all council members, Johnson didn’t mince words before Chief Hall presented her plan.
He repeated what he said publicly last week that Chief Hall’s goal of cutting violent crime by five percent isn’t ambitious enough and expressed disappointment that he had to request such a plan early last month.
“The violence we saw in 2019 is clearly unacceptable. And it simply made no sense to me that we didn’t have a data-driven, evidence-based written plan to deal with the problem,” said Mayor Johnson.
After the city experienced a spike in armed robberies, homicides and aggravated assaults for non-family violence last year, the Mayor said his goal was to return to 2018 levels of violent crime.
In response, Chief Hall told the Mayor and council members that her 5% goal is a “floor, not a ceiling” and that she believes the Dallas Police Department would exceed it.
“We said five percent overall reduction in violent crime was realistic. It was based on data, on the number of officers we currently have,” Chief Hall said.
She also expressed doubt about the department achieving the Mayor’s goal, citing historical data.
“The city has not seen a year over year from one year to the next year a violent crime reduction of more than 25 percent in over 25 years,” she said.
Mayor Johnson also took the Chief to task for not explaining the reason for the increase in violent crime, which he described as a “surge no other comparable major city in Texas or the United States experienced during this same period.”
The Mayor said, “It also made no sense to me that nobody I asked, not the police chief, not the city manager, nobody had any idea what was driving our crime surge in Dallas. I asked for ‘an analysis of the trends and drivers of violent crime in our city.’ Yet, I don’t see in the plan any real attempt to explain the causes that drove the increase in violent crime we saw in 2019.”
Chief Hall said in her presentation that was is driving violent crime in Dallas is individual locations with multiple incidents in Southern Dallas and Northeast Dallas.
During a news conference after the briefing, CBS 11 asked Chief Hall to respond to the Mayor’s criticism she didn’t have an answer.
She said, “We did have an answer at what’s driving crime. We know that it’s narcotics, it’s guns, it’s gangs. Those are the three drivers of crime in the city of Dallas.”
In its briefing papers, Dallas PD said the Chief’s goal of a 5% crime reduction would result in 485 fewer crime victims, while her department’s stretch goal of a 10% reduction would produce 971 fewer victims.
The department said the Mayor’s goal of returning to 2018 levels would result in nearly 1,678 fewer victims.
The council’s Chair of the Public Safety Committee, Adam McGough thanked the Mayor for asking the Chief and City Manager T.C. Broadnax to develop a plan, saying they wouldn’t have one without his request.
Then he addressed Chief Hall.
“My first issue with the plan is that you were forced to create it. It lacks some of the grand vision and innovation that can inspire a community and department to get involved,” said McGough.
Another member of the Public Safety Committee, Cara Mendelsohn, expressed disappointment that Chief Hall didn’t have a plan to reduce violent crime until the Mayor asked for it and called her goal of reducing violent crime by five percent this year as “outrageously low.”
But the Vice-Chair of the Public Safety Committee, Carolyn King Arnold dismissed criticism of Chief Hall, saying the violence didn’t start when she arrived in the city.
“Some 20 members met Saturday morning to support the Chief. We do hear there is some blaming and identification and we want to be clear on the record this is too serious a matter to begin to put it in front of some individual or individuals,” King said.
Chief Hall said her department has developed four objectives in reducing crime, which include creating a new 100 member violent crime reduction team, optimizing department resources and increasing clearance rates of crimes.
DPD records show between January and September of last year, Dallas had a higher violent crime rate than the cities of San Antonio, Phoenix and Chicago.
But that wasn’t the case during that same period in 2018.
Records also show the city’s violent crime per capita in 2019, 878 crimes per 100,000 residents, was the highest it had been since 2008, 895 crimes per 100,000 people.
The lowest years were in 2013 (664 crimes per 100,000 residents) and 2014 (665 crimes per 100,000 residents).
Mayor Johnson said last week his goal was for the city to achieve that level within the next five years, as a result of Chief Hall’s plan and the recommendations forwarded by his Task Force on Safe Communities.
He tweeted Monday night, “I won’t let ANYONE tell me that it is “unrealistic” to lower violent crime in @CityOfDallas to the level it was at just one year ago. Working together with @DallasPD, we absolutely CAN and we MUST. It’s going to take all of us, but don’t tell me it’s unrealistic. It’s not.
I won’t let ANYONE tell me that it is “unrealistic” to lower violent crime in @CityOfDallas to the level it was at just one year ago. Working together with @DallasPD, we absolutely CAN and we MUST. It’s going to take all of us, but don’t tell me it’s unrealistic. It’s not.
— Mayor Eric Johnson (@Johnson4Dallas) January 14, 2020
Some council members told the Chief they will help her in any way they can, but made it clear, they are watching and are expecting results.
READ THE FULL PRESENTATION TO THE PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE HERE: