DPD Briefs Officials on Staffing, Violent Crime Reduction

Screengrab from Dallas Public Safety Committee Meeting | Image by City of Dallas
Screengrab from Dallas Public Safety Committee Meeting | Image by City of Dallas

During a Monday meeting of the Public Safety Committee, Dallas City Council members heard reports from officials about what was being done to mitigate the Dallas Police Department’s officer shortage and the progress being made reducing violent crime.

Maj. Pollyanna Ashford explained to the committee that DPD had made changes to its referral and retention program, which it had briefed the committee on back in April.

“We made the committee’s recommended adjustments,” she said. “The program is now limited to sworn employees only. And we increased it to $6,000, which is up from $5,000.”

The Dallas Express previously reported that the referral pilot program would provide financial incentives to certain City employees who refer officer candidates — an initiative the Public Safety Committee supports — as DPD tries to inch closer to its hiring goals.

The program would pay $1,000 to the referring sworn employee after the officer starts work, $1,000 to the same employee when the officer graduates from the police academy, and $3,000 to that employee on the officer’s fifth anniversary with the City.

Ashford said that in April, 171 applicants were referred. Of those, 96 were entered into or completed the background process. The next police academy class is scheduled for May 22.

“We currently have 47 recruits assigned to that class,” she said. “We’re projected to have 50 or more. We still have a little time. It’s the first time since 2018 that we’ve had an academy class this size.”

Data provided by DPD shows that between October 1, 2023, and April 30, 2024, the Civil Service referred 673 applicants. Of those, 83 entered the police academy. Additionally, DPD recruiters participated in 26 events last month, including three outside Texas.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, DPD currently only has around 3,000 officers in the field. A City report recommends a force of roughly 4,000 to properly ensure public safety. Its budget of $654 million is less than that of law enforcement agencies in other high-crime jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.

Still, despite the significant staffing shortage, violent crime in Dallas is down by more than 18% compared to the same period a year ago, police officials said.

“We’re down 18.18%,” Maj. Jason Scoggins told the committee. “Homicides, right now, are also showing a decrease of over 26%. We’re looking good. We’re staying the course. We’re doing what works, quite simply said.”

Another “huge contributing factor” in the reduction is a 21% decrease in aggravated assaults, Dallas police data suggests.

The report is an indication that progress is being made to reduce the four offenses of violent crime — murder, nonnegligent homicide, robbery, rape, and aggravated assault, as defined by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

“We’re very happy … at this point in time,” Chief Eddie Garcia said. “As I mentioned before, particularly now as we close the school year … this is certainly not a time to let up. This is our time to put our foot on the gas. We’ve just got to keep working hard.”

The new data shows that murders involving family violence have declined 25% year-to-date. While robberies are down by more than 2%, business robberies have climbed more than 36%.

“These are phenomenal numbers,” Council Member Gay Donnell Willis (District 13) said. “This is absolutely incredible and amazing work. … I’m still concerned … about robbery of business. I’d love to hear a little bit more about that. Is this organized crime? Is this taking place during business hours?”

Garcia said much of that crime can be attributed to store employees trying to stop shoplifters.

“We’ve been challenged throughout the year with what have been shoplifts that have gone bad,” he said. “When an individual tries to [stop the suspect], it turns into a robbery. We’re working on best practices” so employees do not become victims.

The violent crime reduction plan includes three steps — hot-spot policing (based on the theory that crime is concentrated in small areas), place network investigations, and the focused deterrence program, The Dallas Express reported.

“Thank you for all the great work you’re doing,” Council Member Tennell Atkins (District 8) said. “When the summer comes up, we know that more crimes are going [to happen] in certain grids. Do we put more officers there at that grid? What do we do? What is our plan for the summer?”

The foundation of the violent crime reduction plan is the mapping of hot spot crime grids of 330 by 330 feet — roughly the size of a football field — that are assigned to patrol units, The Dallas Express reported in February. The department began work in its 15th phase of the grids, which are adjusted every 60 days based on an analysis of crime data across Dallas.

Officials implemented the strategy after research showed roughly 0.05% of the jurisdiction accounted for almost 10% of violent street crime.

“Our youth have activities and things they can do,” Garcia said in response to Atkins’ question about summer policing. “There is no specific plan. Our crime plan is a year-round plan. Dealing with the grid, particularly where we reassess the grid every 60 days now … we’re going to have new grids as summer really gets going again. We’ll treat those areas when they spark up.”

“There’s no question we also need to pivot on top of the grids,” Garcia said. “We need to keep our finger on the pulse of the city with different plans. If there are gang factions that are feuding … we have to have that street-level intelligence. It is a constant. The crime plan is always constant. What tactics really can change week to week.”

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