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Dallas officials react to national crime statistics

By Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter

Dallas, TX – Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter: Dave Scott and Ron Campbell cruise their northwest Dallas neighborhood a few times a month, two hours at a time, to thwart crime. They're volunteers in the police department's Interactive Community Policing program. The portable light on top of Scott's car flashes orange, and magnetic patrol signs stick to the doors.

Dave Scott, volunteer patrol: We try to look for problems, suspicious people, suspicious vehicles, a lot of code violations...

Zeeble: Dave Scott says neighborhood crime's not that bad here, though there've been some car burglaries. But Dallas on the whole is in its fifth straight year holding the top spot as the nation's most crime-ridden big city. According to the FBI, it leads in violent crimes like murder and aggravated assault, and nonviolent crimes like burglary and auto theft. But at his press conference, Bolton downplayed the statistics.

Terrell Bolton, Dallas Police Chief: We can't control crime. We're an important part of it, but we're not the lynchpin in crime fighting. It comes back to a collective effort.

Zeeble: Bolton praised the collective effort from the police department's 1,061 volunteers, whose numbers he says are at an all-time high. But with Dallas officially more dangerous than larger cities like New York and Los Angeles, Dallas City Council member Dr. Elba Garcia, chair of the Public Safety Committee, is alarmed.

Dr. Elba Garcia, Dallas City Councilperson: That's not acceptable. The number one priority of a city is to be safe. Without a safe city, you won't have economic development. You won't have safe schools.

Zeeble: Garcia wants deeper analysis of crime statistics to help better allocate police resources to the most needed areas. She also wants more prevention. And she's worried the force is stretched too thin. Art Femister, president of the California-based National Association of Citizens on Patrol, says police are scrambling all over.

Art Femister, National Association of Citizens on Patrol president: They're running from call to call to call. Maybe not 911 critical calls, but they still have to respond to them. It's very rare officers get the chance to patrol neighborhoods, doing nothing more than just be eyes and ears.

Zeeble: Garcia worries Dallas Police these days are just 911 responders.

Garcia: Once a person is calling 911, the crime has already happened.

Zeeble: The biggest prevention technique Dallas police are touting, says Chief Bolton, is an auto theft prevention plan he expects will produce results. And he wants to put crime-ridden apartments and stores in their own statistical category, to target them and embarrass owners to better police themselves. But Garcia and other Public Safety Committee members are also talking about the Giuliani Group, founded by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. His company markets successful crime-fighting tactics Giuliani used in New York. But he did it after hiring a lot more officers and bulking up the budget. Garcia wants to discuss the idea at the August Public Safety Committee meeting. For KERA 90.1, I'm Bill Zeeble.


Email Bill Zeeble about this story.