‘Black Men Against Black Men’: Council Member Arnold on Murder Spike

District 4
District 4 Public Safety and Community Engagement meeting | Image by District 4 City Council

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn King Arnold of District 4 addressed a recent string of murders during a Thursday community meeting on public safety.

The Dallas Express attended the meeting, which was convened at Paul L. Dunbar Library. Alongside Arnold, Dallas ISD trustee Maxie Johnson, Deputy Chief Mark Villarreal and Major Majusta Allen of the Dallas Police Department, Victor Alvelais with Dallas CRED, and others heard community members speak about some of the violence seen lately in Oak Cliff and in Dallas in general.

Weighing heavy on the minds of speakers and attendees alike were the weekend killings of 20-year-old Mavion Goldman at an apartment complex on Easter Avenue and 30-year-old Shaketta Johnson in the parking lot of the Glendale Shopping Center. Arnold explained that violent crime has been rising in District 4 over the past few weeks.

“For the record, before all this, our stats had started to go down. They were going down, and then, within probably the last … three or four weeks, we’ve seen more activity. You almost have to ask yourself, ‘Am I looking at the same news story that I was looking at the other day?’ because I surely don’t believe this is happening,” Arnold said.

According to data from the City’s crime analytics dashboard, there were 13 murders in District 4 this year as of April 18. This is more than all other council districts and represents a 62.5% rise in murders year over year in District 4. Citywide, there have been 63 murders this year. The overwhelming majority of murder victims have been racial minorities.

“A total of 57 African Americans who’ve been killed, 51 of them males, men against men, and black men against black men. That’s tragic,” she said.

While grappling with the recent murders, many looked at the issue of gun violence committed by youths, pointing to the recent shooting at Wilmer-Hutchins High School last week. Regarding the incident, Johnson referred to a recent meeting he organized to discuss campus safety and claimed that the absence of increased state taxpayer spending on security created a considerable challenge.

Yet the problem of youth violence, and especially youth gun violence, as Johnson said, is one for the whole community. He pointed to the impact parents have on their children, who are mimicking their behavior — including criminal behavior — and that the problems this creates are spilling over into communities and schools.

“We got to find the solutions to keep guns out of the hands of our children. … This is a ‘we’ problem,” Johnson told attendees.

Arnold’s Dallas 365 Safe project aims to mobilize all community stakeholders and increase communication between them to reduce violent crime. In many ways, as she stressed during the meeting, this begins with a proactive attitude. Not only does this mean launching more grassroots initiatives to identify and engage with those with a propensity towards acts of violence, such as through nonprofits like Dallas CRED, but also by keeping law enforcement in the loop.

“If we hear gunshots at night, we hear folks out making doughnuts … You got 15 other people on that block that hear it. This has to be a ‘we’ thing now,” Arnold said.

“If you see something, say something. And if you know something, do something. That is the only way we can have a community that is 365 Safe,” she said.

DPD officials also told attendees that the doors to their divisions were always open and asked that community members — even those wishing to remain anonymous — come forward with information on crimes.

Noting that DPD Police Chief Eddie Garcia’s number one priority has been reducing violent crime, Deputy Chief Villarreal assured attendees that he and other division commanders were working hard to serve the community and promote public safety, even amidst a critical staffing deficit.

“Our men and women are working very hard out there on the streets every day,” he said. “Are we short-staffed? Could we use more officers? Of course.”

He went on to say that DPD was trying to boost its efficiency through certain technologies, such as online reporting.

“So we’re trying to do that stuff [to be more proactive], but I can tell you that we look forward to working with our community members here in District 4,” he added.

DPD fields around 3,000 officers citywide despite a City report calling for a force of around 4,000 to ensure public safety needs in a city the size of Dallas. Closing this gap is all the more difficult given that City leaders approved a budget of just $654 million for DPD this fiscal year. This is considerably less spending on police than the sums allocated in other high-crime jurisdictions, including Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles.

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