Top city officials praised Dallas police Chief Eddie García’s violent crime plan this week after the department provided updated data showing that overall violent crime, murders and robberies continue to trend downward citywide — even as aggravated assaults experienced an uptick compared to last year.
The tallies come as Dallas police launch the next phase of the chief’s violent crime reduction strategy this week. The strategy focuses on place network investigations — or locating criminal networks and disrupting them.
“Criminologists will be in town to start discussions on training,” García told council members this week. “One of the products that will come from place network investigations is looking where the issues are — fixing the problem. And if that problem takes codifying certain things that we have to do as a city or other things, that is what will get borne out of that.”
Previously, the department focused on the chief’s short-term plan of increasing police visibility in 47 small geographic areas where violent crime is prevalent across Dallas. Police already has identified the next 51 grids where the department intends to concentrate resources — 40 of which will be new. That’s out of 101,402 grids citywide.
Police did not identify all the new areas included, but the chief did say that Deep Ellum will be included after a spate of violence there in recent months, including a mass shooting that left two teenagers dead.
Violent crime in the city is down about 5.8% in through September compared with last year. Murders were down about 6%, or 10 homicides, and there have been about 26.3% — or 669 — fewer robberies than last year.
However, aggravated assaults — both family and nonfamily — are up about 2.7%, or 157 more incidents.
The chief faced pressure to curb Dallas’ violent crime trend when he started the job in early February. Murders and aggravated assaults began trending upward in 2015 after years of steady declines, with a spike during 2019 and 2020, according to a Dallas Morning News analysis.
Even before García arrived, he said he had two main goals: To gain the community’s trust — and reduce violent crime.
García’s violent crime plan depends on short-, medium- and long-term strategies, and focuses on targeting drug houses and tackling poverty as a root cause of violence. The plan’s medium- and long-term strategies include using focused deterrence to change the behavior of high-risk offenders through arrests, community involvement and social services.
For some city leaders, the updated stats presented this week were a hopeful sign that the chief’s plan is working.
Mayor Eric Johnson said in a written statement that Dallas is taking the right steps towards its goal of “becoming the safest major city in the country.”
“I am grateful that Chief García has taken a thoughtful and strategic approach to fighting violent crime in our city,” Johnson said. “The early successes of his plan have meant fewer victims and safer neighborhoods. We still have significant work ahead of us, but I am proud that we have committed to putting public safety first.”
A closer look at the stats
Data released last month from the FBI’s annual crime report shows America in 2020 experienced its biggest percent rise in murders since the agency started keeping track in about 1960.
Unlike some other big cities, such as Chicago and Houston, murders are lower in Dallas this year. There have been 158 homicides in Dallas through Sept. 30 this year, which compares with 168 during that period last year.
Dallas police Maj. Paul Junger told council members Tuesday the decrease in murders is the department’s greatest accomplishment. Since the chief’s plan went into effect May 7, there have been 85 murders in the city — 29 fewer when compared with the same time period in 2020, Junger said.
Junger told council members that nonfamily aggravated assaults remain the largest driver of violent crime. He said most are single location incidents with multiple victims, such as road rage or shooting into a house.
However, Junger said, there were about 55 fewer victims of aggravated assaults since the chief’s plan went into effect. From May 7 through Sept. 30, there were 3,410 victims of aggravated assaults, compared with 3,469 last year.
Junger said the department is reducing aggravated assaults by taking weapons and drugs off the street. There have been 607 more arrests for a total of 15,095 this year, and 1,095 more guns seized compared with 2020.
He said there is a 38% decrease this year in use-of-force complaints against officers, with 28 received by internal affairs so far this year. Last year, the department experienced an uptick in complaints against officers, particularly after tense protests in Dallas following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
The No. 1 location for murders, robberies and aggravated assaults this year were at apartments, according to the department. Council members inquired about potential policy changes that could require apartment complexes to add either lighting or cameras to help police reduce violence there, which García welcomed.
City officials also lauded the department’s success in keeping crime numbers down and arrests up.
“We are seeing better trends in Dallas than we are in other big cities across this country,” public safety committee chairman Adam McGough said. “The evidence is there, the plan is there, and I just want to offer my voice as one that’s saying thank you for this effort and this work.”
Even as the department’s updated stats offered a hopeful glimpse at reducing violent crime, other challenges persist.
García joined the mayor and other city leaders to unveil a new plan this week meant to confront the year-to-date uptick in family aggravated assaults. Council members reacted warmly to the plan Tuesday, but pointed out that the caseload in the family violence unit is higher than average because of staffing shortages.
Each detective in the family violence unit has about 50 cases a month. Dallas police said the caseload should be about 20 to 30 a month.
García said the unit is down about nine employees, which he hopes to hire within two years.
The staffing challenges come even as Dallas police exceeded their hiring goals for the last fiscal year. The department hired 169 officers, which was 19 above its goal, but lost 204 for a net loss of 35 officers. García said the department expected those numbers and he doesn’t have a special retention strategy planned. The chief said most left due to retirement.
The city employs around 3,100 officers. About 3,500 to 3,600 officers worked in the department years ago, but hundreds left during a pension crisis in 2016-17. Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax has proposed that the city hire 500 police officers during the next two fiscal years.
García said multiple units are short-staffed or grappling with larger case loads, including family violence, homicide and general assaults.
“We’ve depleted the department through years,” García said. “We need to grow it again and we’re getting there.”
“We did not get into this mess overnight, we’re not going to get out of it overnight,” he added.