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Here’s a preview of Dallas Police Chief Eddie García’s plans to reduce violent crime

The takeaways from the plan are to reverse the crime trend, have fewer victims, build trust and improve conditions.

After nearly three months on the job, Dallas police Chief Eddie García on Wednesday plans to brief the city’s elected leaders on his strategy to cut crime.

His plan, which outlines short-, medium- and long-term goals, will focus on hot spot policing, deterring violent people, disrupting problem places, and improving the community.

The plan, which is laid out in a 29-page report and a presentation, found that violent crime in Dallas is “geographically concentrated in a relatively small number of areas within the city.” The report says those spots have been in the Southeast, Southwest and South Central divisions. The report leaned on experts from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Police statistics show that city-wide, aggravated assaults are slightly up this year compared to last year. Murders are up 33% from last year, with police reporting 68 compared to 51 this time a year ago.

Among the department’s key strategies is hot spot policing in neighborhoods where crime is the highest. The specific areas were not outlined in the report, but the idea would be to increase police visibility in those locations.

One of the chief’s goals is to identify the areas and connections of violent crime in Dallas. García previously has talked about disrupting drug houses as a key part of this strategy.

The department also is using focused deterrence, a crime strategy that seeks to intervene and change the behavior of violent offenders. Finally, urban blight abatement will be another long-term effort to reduce crime.

The department has used hot spot policing for years. In 2008, Dallas police officials created what they called targeted action area grids, or TAAGs. The approach helped them zero in on small geographic areas that drove the city’s overall crime. During that time, the city saw violent crime reduction over seven years.

Now, the department is going to laser-focus on the crime by identifying small geographic areas where police would increase their presence and arrest repeat offenders or deter problems at the street level.

The police, according to the report, plan to continually analyze how their efforts are affecting crime on a weekly and biannual basis.

“If one of the experimental treatments (high visibility presence vs. offender-focused tactics) appears to be more effective than the other, then a decision will be made to expand or discontinue one or the other,” the report said.

Hot spot policing led to mixed results in a 2019 joint operation when the Department of Public Safety State Troopers teamed up with the police department for a traffic enforcement operation, with a concentration in South Dallas.

Community members complained in a meeting with police that summer that they were getting ticketed for violations like paper tags, registration stickers and busted lights. Some residents said they wanted the state troopers gone. Others said they wanted the physical presence of the troopers patrolling the neighborhoods, but complained that their tactics were too aggressive.

But it appears from García’s crime plan that police will be more transparent in reporting back to the community about their techniques.

“To facilitate transparency and stakeholder input, biannual reports will be produced for public release outlining the hot spots strategy, detailing observed changes in violent crime, and noting any changes recommended to the strategy,” the report said.

García has referred to the need to not only weed out crime but also to plant seeds in the community to draw young people away from criminal activity. He has stressed community policing as a way to build trust in communities so that they can help police solve crime.

In addition to a revised hot spots policing strategy, police will implement a strategy to identify people, places and behaviors that disproportionately contribute to violent crime in Dallas. García has stressed the importance of reporting abandoned homes and blighted lots, which Code Compliance would respond to since it is not an emergency.

He will also bolster law enforcement efforts with preventative measures like the violence interrupters programs and focusing on adding more lighting and cleaning up blight. The ideas were recommended by the Mayor’s Task Force on Safe Communities. The Dallas City Council last week approved a $1.6 million contract with Youth Advocate Programs to develop violence intervention and prevention programming for the city.

Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, said he liked García’s plan, noting it was different from previous ones because other city departments work to tackle blight. The report says that multiple city departments will be a part of the crime-fighting plan, such as code and nuisance abatement.

“We’ve got to do something more with abatement ... and these abandoned houses, because they just continuously get filled up with more drug dealers,” Mata said. “With these vacant lots, we have got to get them under control with code compliance.”

Increased traffic enforcement, Mata said, may not be received well by activists and some council members.

“To drop crime, you’re going to have to do some form of proactive policing — doesn’t mean go out there and profile people. What it means is find those individuals who are preying upon the public, you’re going to have to engage them in some way. It’s either one — through a traffic stop or a pedestrian stop.”

García plans to brief the City Council in a virtual meeting on his crime plan at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

CORRECTION 9:45 a.m. May 4, 2021: A previous version misstated how long the police chief had been in the job. He has been in the top role for nearly three months.

In This Story

Cassandra Jaramillo. Cassandra Jaramillo is the Dallas Police Department reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She joined The News in 2016. She's a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She likes to write about public safety, police accountability, criminal justice and mental health.

@cassandrajar
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