As he mentioned during his 2019 campaign, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson is attempting to make public safety one of his top priorities.
Mayor Johnson recently launched a “Summer of Safety” campaign to try to keep young people safe while out of school by participating in City-run programs that keep them busy. He described the effort as part of “a holistic approach to reducing violent crime in Dallas.”
In addition, the mayor is enlisting the city manager and the city attorney to collaborate on the issue of public safety. On July 5, Mayor Johnson sent a memorandum to City Manager T.C. Broadnax and City Attorney Chris Caso, requesting that they prioritize five initiatives aimed at lowering violent crime in Dallas.
The mayor’s concern for the city’s safety is warranted: statistics from the FBI’s UCR database show that Dallas has higher crime rates per capita than hotspots like Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York.
Every month, The Dallas Express releases a “Crime Boss” report highlighting the Dallas City Council member whose district saw the greatest year-over-year increase in crime. This month’s Crime Boss is District 1’s Chad West.
When comparing the crime data for June of 2021 to June 2022, crime in the City of Dallas grew by 6.75% overall, with homicides ballooning by 116.7%. Robberies swelled by 47%, and categories such as kidnapping and assault also saw more reports during June in 2022 than the year before.
Dallas has yet to see a decrease in crime since the start of The Dallas Express‘ Crime Boss series.
In an attempt to remedy this, Mayor Johnson is introducing the five initiatives. The first is “blight remediation,” in which the city addresses areas that are decaying or in disrepair.
As noted in a Philadelphia study published by the American Journal of Public Health: “Abandoned buildings and vacant lots are blighted structures seen daily by urban residents that may create physical opportunities for violence by sheltering illegal activity and illegal firearms.”
The mayor has started working with the City Attorney’s Office on a new policy modeled on a successful program in Philadelphia that would supposedly “take our city’s blight remediation efforts to the next level.” The Dallas City Council has already promised to allocate taxpayer dollars for blight remediation measures in the city’s annual budget.
The second initiative focuses on school partnerships. Johnson wants the city to finance and facilitate coordination between the police force and the Dallas Independent School District to support the growth of teen counseling programs. Two such programs, Becoming a Man (BAM) and Working on Womanhood (WOW), were implemented in DISD last year.
BAM seeks to help young men in grades 7-12 acquire, develop, and practice social cognitive skills, make wise decisions for the future, and contribute positively to their school and community.
Likewise, WOW strives to strengthen social-emotional skills for girls in grades 7-12 who are exposed to traumatic stressors in “high-risk and under-resourced” neighborhoods.
The mayor’s third initiative supports taxpayer funding of the Dallas Police Department’s focused-deterrence program, part of Police Chief Eddie Garcia’s plan to reduce violent crime. Focused deterrence involves “problem-oriented policing strategies… that target specific criminal behavior committed by a small number of chronic offenders, such as youth gang members or repeat violent offenders,” according to the Department of Justice.
The mayor would like to see the program funded as soon as possible so it can be implemented expeditiously.
In the memo, Johnson stated, “Several violent incidents in our city’s vibrant and thriving nightlife districts have caused some safety concerns.”
The fourth initiative calls on Dallas Police and the City Attorney’s Office to contest the alcohol licenses of “bad actors.”
The mayor wrote in the memorandum, “I would like to see the Dallas Police Department and the City Attorney’s Office partner to challenge the alcoholic beverage licenses of any businesses that have acted irresponsibly and catalyzed public safety issues in these neighborhoods,” noting that there is already a process in place for such protests.
For the fifth initiative, Johnson asked his colleagues to work with the city council to develop strategies that various city departments and agencies can implement to improve public safety.
Police statistics show that as of July 4, 126 people have been murdered in Dallas this year.
June’s Crime Boss report notes that May 2022 saw a 128.6% increase in homicides in the City of Dallas compared to May 2021. There were seven reported homicides in May 2021. The number rose to 16 in May 2022.
A string of recent homicides includes a 5-year-old boy in his South Dallas home, a 21-year-old man shot in Oak Cliff and then dropped off at a nearby hospital, and a couple, ages 24 and 27, found shot in a Northeast Dallas apartment with their unharmed 8-month and 2-year-old children.