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Dallas City Council Votes To Approve Traffic Enforcement Program

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The Dallas City Council voted on Wednesday to accept a grant that would give money to the police department to enforce traffic laws.

As activists make calls to defund the police, the Dallas City Council voted on Wednesday to accept a federal grant from a program called the Comprehensive Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) that would give money to the police department to enforce traffic laws.

“Encouraging the police to write tickets unnecessarily puts people in contact with the police, who use traffic stops against people of color,” Amelia Casas said at the city council budget meeting. Casas is the Dallas Policy Coordinator with the nonprofit organization Workers Defense Project.

Casas and many other activists spoke against the grant proposal at the meeting and about how they felt it targeted people of color.

“Traffic stops should never serve as a tactic and the city should never generate revenue from the pockets of our poorest residents,” Casas said.

Through the grant, a total of $770,047.72 will be allocated to the Dallas Police Department to pay for travel expenses and overtime of police officers who will enforce traffic laws. STEP focuses on issuing a ticket for driving through a red street light or speeding, specifically at street intersections. The grant does not include enforcement against street racing.

“It (STEP) is directed in those areas where we’ve had a large number of traffic crashes and accidents,” said Dallas Police Chief Reneé Hall.

According to Hall, STEP is an existing program and the money is used to enforce traffic safety.

The money for STEP comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation. It is passed to the Texas Department of Transportation and then to DPD. TxDOT provides DPD with a heat map that shows the areas with the most car crashes, and the department uses that data to distribute officers to certain areas.

Casas wants STEP money to instead be used for community social services.

“Sometimes we have to look and see how a grant is actually targeting or hurting a low-income area. We need to be focused on and maybe we need to do more education,” said council member Omar Narvaez, who represents District 6.

Narvaez also had some reservations. At the meeting he asked to pull the budget item for review. He questioned the money that would be given for police officer travel expenses.

The City Council approved the STEP grant. It will go into effect October 1st.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the economic impact of COVID-19 on marginalized communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @_martinez_ale.

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