Moreno Hits Crime, Homelessness on DX Podcast

Dallas City Council member Jesse Moreno | Image by The Dallas Express Podcast
Dallas City Council member Jesse Moreno | Image by The Dallas Express Podcast

Acknowledging challenges in reducing homelessness and addressing crime in some parts of the city, Dallas City Council member Jesse Moreno claimed during the latest episode of The Dallas Express Podcast that the country’s ninth-largest municipality is a safe one.

“I think public safety is a perception, and everyone feels safety differently,” he told host Sarah Zubiate-Bennett. “What I can tell you is we have an incredible [police] chief here in the city of Dallas, and he is working tirelessly every single day. … Dallas is doing some incredible work when you see data that says that our violent crime is continuing to go down. However, we do need to work on those quality-of-life concerns that the average resident is affected by.”

Moreno, a Dallas native, was first elected to represent District 2 in 2021 and was reelected in 2023. He also previously served on the Dallas Park Board.

“So, District 2, I believe, represents the entire city,” he said during the podcast. “We touch over eight districts, and we go from northwest all the way to Far East Dallas. We represent small communities and neighborhoods to entertainment districts — the richest of the rich, the poorest of the poor. So, we get to see a snapshot of the entire city of Dallas within one district.”

Moreno is a member of several Dallas City Council committees, including Government Performance and Financial Management, Housing & Homelessness Solutions, Parks, Trails & the Environment, Public Safety, the Ad Hoc Committee on Administrative Affairs, the Ad Hoc Committee on Pensions, and the Ad Hoc Committee on Professional Sports Recruitment & Retention.

When it comes to crime in Dallas, Moreno said the areas that “concern” him are the downtown entertainment districts.

“Typically, it’s people from outside of Dallas or surrounding districts that are coming into the area and committing those crimes,” he said. “So, that’s an area I’m very focused on. Obviously, Deep Ellum has been in the news in the past couple of years. … We’ve seen some incredible results in the Deep Ellum entertainment district. … I will take my family out to Deep Ellum because I do feel safe.”

Moreno attributed that feeling of safety to the dozens of security cameras in the area and an increased police presence.

District 2 is home to about 108,000 people, with a civilian labor force of more than 58,000 — primarily in trade, transportation and utilities, professional and business services, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality. The median age of a District 2 resident is 33.

“As elected officials, we see and hear about the comments and the posts on social media, and that’s great, and I want people to voice their concerns … but what I can tell you is, we’re not looking at every post,” Moreno said. “We’re not looking at every comment. It’s so critical that our residents come out to City Hall and speak publicly during those morning and afternoon sessions so we can hear firsthand what the concerns are or what the issues are.”

When asked to provide his perspective on the state of homelessness in Dallas, Moreno offered a blunt response.

“Unfortunately, yes, I’ve been a victim when it comes to homelessness,” he said. “As a business owner and a resident, I’ve shielded my daughter’s eyes from people who are undressed just walking up and down our city streets. I’ve had someone knock on our door at 4 a.m. asking for help.”

But the help the individual wanted began and ended with money, Moreno said. That person did not want to take advantage of any of the City’s homelessness resources.

“I do want to give some major kudos to our staff with Homeless Solutions who have done an outstanding job with our Give Responsibly Campaign,” he said. “Individuals, organizations typically from outside of Dallas, are coming into our [Central Business District] with the intent of helping individuals. But they are doing more harm than they are doing good.”

Moreno said the answer is for them to stop and instead give directly to the organizations already in place “that are designed to help individuals.”

“When people are coming from the suburbs to Dallas [to give handouts to the homeless], what they are doing is discouraging people from seeking shelter, from seeking the resources they so desperately needed,” he said.

Meanwhile, City officials continue to consider alternatives to change the outlook on homelessness in Dallas.

“So, I have had an opportunity with some of my colleagues to visit multiple cities, looking at different ways that our counterparts are addressing homelessness,” Moreno said. “Dallas is unique. Every city is different. I don’t believe there is a model that we can replicate exactly and bring it to Dallas. It’s going to have to be molded and shaped to meet our needs. Something I’m looking at is intermediate housing.”

Regardless, Dallas cannot “be at a standstill,” Moreno said.

“We have to be proactive, even if it’s an inch at a time. We have to show progress, and that’s what I’m looking for,” he said.

When asked about the possibility of having a one-stop shop for homeless services in Dallas, similar to Haven for Hope in San Antonio, Moreno said that such a facility would require help from the community.

“The City of Dallas can very well help with the infrastructure and the buildout of those facilities, but we’re going to really need a call-out to our residents, our business owners, to be able to help fund that day-to-day operation,” Moreno said.

Although officials may debate policy on improving public safety and reducing homelessness citywide, Moreno insisted that Dallas has “so much to offer.”

“My overall goal is to be able to retain families … here in our city,” he said. “We have so many young people out of college [with] their first jobs move to Dallas. I want them to call Dallas home forever when they start having their families. … For the size of a city Dallas is, we are a safe city. Can we do better? Absolutely.”

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