Dallas has a common-sense plan to fight crime. It just needs a way to pay for it
It’s been a year since Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson’s Task Force on Safer Communities made four sensible recommendations on how to curb violent crime without police involvement, including better street lighting and epidemic eradication.
City officials allocated $ 4.5 million to the plan last year, including $ 3.7 million for the two environmental strategies. This is a good start, but the question is can the city hold the investment long enough to get results.
To improve his chances of success, Johnson recently wrote letters to the board chairs of the 19 districts to fund tax increases (TIFs) in Dallas asking them to allocate dollars for lighting upgrades and disease fixes in and around their districts. According to state regulations, TIF funds can be used for projects that benefit the district, including lighting and environmental remediation.
It is a reasonable request, and we encourage the district board members to heed the call. Task Force recommendations have begun to produce results in South Dallas.
David Pughes, who now has a civilian role after serving as a deputy to the Dallas Police Department, is implementing the recommendations as head of the Office of Integrated Public Safety Solutions. Since the summer, the office has been concentrated on a section of Malcolm X Boulevard near Marburg Street. By the end of the year, crime in the region had decreased by 9% and the number of police calls had decreased by 8%, according to city statistics.
In December, the crews upgraded 30 street lamps along Malcolm X Boulevard. However, most of the interventions in the city have focused on tackling Code violations and cleaning up land.
Risk terrain modeling – a data analysis that looks for environmental conditions like abandoned houses that encourage crime – will show Pughes where to potentially intervene, but city workers need to dig more. For example, city officials learned that neighbors named an overgrown shrub “the burning bush” because drug addicts and others used it as a cover for illegal activities. The city cleaned up the overgrowth.
Pughes’ office also works with police officers, prosecutors, and other city officials to investigate businesses for Code violations, secure abandoned homes and clean up homeless camps.
An outdoor car wash on Malcolm X attracted attention because crimes were committed nearby, Pughes said. The block had become a meeting place on weekend nights, with vehicles on the premises and an adjacent church car park. A detective worked with church leaders and had Home Depot donate cables so the church could cordon off the property when it wasn’t in use.
Pughes said that these measures, and the task force’s other two recommendations – violence interrupters and school programs – need sustained funding to be successful.
“If we see the success we expect, we will certainly need more money,” said Pughes.
We know these efforts alone will not eradicate crime, but we hope that continued engagement will give these interventions a chance to prove they work.