DX Publisher Doubles Down on Supporting Police, Civic Engagement

Speakers of the Dallas Regional Chamber Public Safety Forum | Image by The Dallas Express

The Dallas Regional Chamber held a forum on public safety on Tuesday in which Monty Bennett, publisher of The Dallas Express, called on local businesses to get more involved in municipal affairs.

Law enforcement officials and civic leaders from around North Texas spoke during two panels that focused on some of the distinct public safety challenges faced by the DFW area’s explosive growth over the last several years, most of which has been enjoyed by surrounding municipalities rather than Dallas proper.

A keynote speech by Commissioner Greg Stevens of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) set the tone for the subsequent remarks, which focused on how different law enforcement agencies are adapting to the rapid growth and what efforts are being made to help repeat criminal offenders find lawful alternatives to crime to make a living.

Stevens seemingly referenced the anti-police sentiment drummed up by left-wing social movements and spotlighted by news media, noting that “law enforcement’s legitimacy has been questioned.” He went on to describe TCOLE’s efforts to bolster law enforcement across the state, acknowledging the rampant staffing problems and the issue of “wandering officers” who are terminated or leave just before facing consequences at one department and go on to find work in law enforcement elsewhere.

Still, overall, “America still loves the police,” Stevens said.

Bennett, who attended the event as the CEO and chairman of Ashford Inc., which co-sponsored the gathering, closed out the event with the final remarks of the day, during which he underscored the public safety situation in Dallas and encouraged businesses and individuals to take a greater role in local governmental affairs.

He referenced remarks he made at a Downtown Dallas Inc. luncheon some weeks ago that prompted the ire of more than one former Dallas mayor who felt his comments about the prevalence of crime in the city center were inappropriate.

According to the City of Dallas crime analytics dashboard, there were 3,102 crimes committed in 2020 in DPD Sector 130, which comprises Historic Downtown and Victory Park. In 2021, 3,863 crimes were reported. The following year, 4,312 crimes were committed, and in 2023, officials logged another 4,698.

Bennett noted, as he did at the previous event, that he would prefer to base his business operations downtown rather than in Far North Dallas but that his employees had expressed reservations over having to work in the high-crime area.

He stressed that raising police pay, shoring up their troubled pension situation, and showcasing more support from the community would go a long way to addressing DPD’s longstanding officer shortage.

As previously reported by DX, DPD only fields around 3,000 officers despite a City analysis advising that approximately 4,000 are needed to properly maintain public safety and bring down police response times, which have been alarmingly high.

“I want to go [downtown]. I want to move there. I just want it to be safe for my people, and my people, of course, want it to be safe. And so I’m going to do whatever I can in order to support our police so that they can do what they very much want to do, and that is to [make] it as safe as possible downtown,” Bennett said.

He went on to reference polling conducted by The Dallas Express that indicates residents are concerned about core city issues like rampant crime, noting that Dallas City Council meetings sometimes yield public comment participants that are “extremists about one issue or another,” with few stakeholders speaking out about “basic services.”

“Running a city is an enormous job,” he said, emphasizing that no city official can be an expert in everything and encouraging businesspeople to step in to fill those gaps in expertise.

“The business community needs to go to the city council meetings and express our points of view and serve on commissions and share our points of view and tell them what we think is important so that they don’t get the feedback just from surveys, but they get it from our mouths to their ears,” Bennett said. “I think that’s important, and that’s significant. And I think that could go a long way to help our city.”

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