Crime Stoppers CEO Thinks Dallas Needs More Police

Sarah Zubiate Bennett and Rania Mankarious | Image by The Dallas Express Podcast

On a recent episode of The Dallas Express Podcast, host Sarah Zubiate Bennett discussed the innovative work of Crime Stoppers in Houston with CEO Rania Mankarious and what lessons it might impart to Dallas.

Speaking with Bennett, Mankarious explained that Crime Stoppers is a non-profit organization that partners with the public, media, and the criminal justice system to fight and prevent crime. Yet around three years ago, crime in Houston — a city of about 2.3 million people — hit an all-time high, forcing stakeholders to take action.

“We sounded the alarm,” Mankarious recalled. “We said, ‘Stop, something is going on, and it requires all of our attention.'”

The next steps involved looking at the data and developing solutions that could curb crime trends while engaging the public through awareness-building measures.

“We didn’t want to just sound the alarm and create concern. We wanted to look at what can we do now,” Mankarious explained.

Crime Stoppers Houston launched the Catch a Killer initiative in 2021 using $500,000 in “dirty money” seized from criminal operations to fund both its tip line and cash reward offerings. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office helps by identifying fugitives wanted for murder, whose photos and biographical information are then posted on the Crime Stoppers website regularly.

Mankarious stressed how the organization worked for legislative changes, namely by pushing for speedier murder trials and “harnessing the community’s concern into pro-active engagement.”

“For periods of time, the community is not going to really look at crime, and then when it gets to this breaking point, they look at crime, but they look at it with emotion and anger. They start yelling at anyone and everybody across the entire spectrum of criminal justice,” she explained.

Houston Crime Stoppers worked to shift the conversation from trying to find the one thing to blame to actually figuring out who was responsible in order to develop an effective way forward.

“So we [came] to the table with appropriate, respectful solutions with the right players in place, and that has made a huge difference in Houston,” Mankarious said.

Some reduction in crime In Houston, however, does not mean the fight is finished.

“Until we’re at all-time lows, we’re not going to sort of put down the fight and start celebrating because one victim of murder or human trafficking is one too many,” Mankarious said.

To this end, Mankarious gave crime-fighting tips that Houston and Dallas might benefit from, which included providing more resources to law enforcement, being tougher on crime, and grappling with recidivism through in-prison rehabilitation programs.

“Texas cities are growing rapidly, whereas city budgets and county budgets are not growing to the same degree, so it’s hard to increase city services at the rate that matches the growth in the population,” Mankarious remarked, referring to the officer shortages in Houston and Dallas.

Despite being smaller in size, Dallas — a city of 1.3 million — currently puts up higher figures than Houston in certain crime categories. Per 100,000 residents, Dallas clocks a 22% higher homicide rate and a 180% higher human trafficking rate, Bennett said during the broadcast.

Compared to other high-crime cities like New York and Chicago, where there are around 40 officers per 100,000 residents, Texas cities have only around two officers per 100,000 residents, Mankarious noted. This means that Houston should aim to maintain around 8,000 officers instead of the 5,200 it currently fields.

Similarly, Dallas has only around 3,000 officers whereas a City analysis based on population size recommended closer to 4,000 to ensure public safety. Personnel increases remain challenging, however, considering that this fiscal year, the Dallas Police Department was provided a budget of just $654 million, considerably less than other high-crime cities.

For the full interview with Rania Mankarious, watch Episode 20 of The Dallas Express Podcast with Sarah Zubiate Bennett.

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