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Homicide problem that we should have seen coming

Homicide problem that we should have seen coming

June 5th, 2019 by Dallas Morning News in Opinion Columns

When two of the Dallas Police Department's staunchest critics vow to work with police to fight crime, you know fears about the safety of the city can no longer be ignored.

We've worried for some time that crime in Dallas is slipping out of control and that the sense of safety is ebbing in neighborhoods in all corners. Then came the news that May recorded the highest number of homicides in one month since the 1990s. As of Friday morning, 40 killings had been reported. That's chilling—and it needs to wake us all up.

No, one month does not make a trend. But this deadly period shows the real impact of DPD's staffing shortage, and it drives home the point that department and city leaders must acknowledge that these spikes erode our sense of the city's protection and security.

A call from activists Olinka Green and Jeff Hood for Chief U. Renee Hall to beef up the homicide unit is born out of the same concerns shared by residents in all parts of the city. What makes it so stunning is the role Green and Hood normally play as reflexive critics of law enforcement. Now, they want the cops' help.

Their wake-up is welcome because it acknowledges what most of us already know. We need our police officers to hold the line on growing crime while city and department leaders focus on rebuilding the force.

We have seen strong neighborhoods around Dallas rallying dormant crime watches and gathering funds to hire extra officer patrols. These are important and valuable tools to prevent crime. But they also suggest a broader sense that the city isn't handling fears of crime with the resources it has.

We realize that Dallas' violent crime numbers are lower than some other big cities such as Detroit and Baltimore.

And we are proud of Dallas detectives working unsustainable numbers of cases while still posting high homicide clearance rates. Dallas solves 76% of murders compared to a national average of 62%.

But is it a surprise to anyone that the increased murder rate was preceded by growth in lesser crimes, particularly drugs and weapons crimes?

It was encouraging to hear from Hall that she's evaluating shifting resources to where they are needed the most, recognizing that transferring them from one assignment creates a hole in another area. And we appreciate the department's continued efforts at recruiting and retaining officers.

It's her job to make sure these crime stats don't continue to go in the wrong direction. We worry they will if there are not enough officers to go around.

These numbers are real, and so is the perception from many of us that our city feels less safe. It's city leaders' job to do more to address both. Dallas' success depends on it.

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