Juvenile Curfew

The council considered whether to renew the juvenile nighttime curfew, and whether to expand the curfew to include daytime hours (9am to 2pm) on weekdays.

The new law makes it illegal for children to be in public between the hours of 9am and 2pm on weekdays (there are several defenses: being accompanied by parent, school wasn’t in session, etc.). The purpose of the law is to punish truants with fines of up to $500. State law prevents schools from imposing fines or otherwise penalizing students until they have committed 10 offenses. Supporters argue that a daytime curfew will reduce juvenile crime.

While I understand the motivation of those supporting this ordinance, I cannot support a curfew that criminalizes children being in public places. I also cannot support an ordinance that will further burden our police when they are struggling to respond to serious 911 calls. Furthermore, because Dallas has dozens and dozens of private and public schools, all with their own calendars and holidays, imposing a juvenile daytime curfew will prove an administrative nightmare for police.

The daytime curfew is unnecessary. If the purpose is to get truants off the street, the police already have the authority to stop truants and taken them back to their schools.

I voted against the nighttime curfew (it passed 13-1). The council unanimously delayed the daytime curfew decision to May 13.

Police Catch East Dallas Carjacker

Deputy Chief Vince Golbeck sent along the good news this morning:

Officers responded to a carjacking at 4117 Abrams Rd last night at 9:00 pm on service #103196-W. Anticipating this may be the same suspect in the string of recent robberies, other officers headed to points near the freeway that head South. An Officer was at Mockingbird/Central when he observed the suspect driving the victim’s stolen vehicle. He followed him until other squads arrived.

After a brief vehicle and foot pursuit the suspect was apprehended. He was transported to the Central Investigative Unit where he was interviewed and admitted to several of the previous carjacking offenses. So far the suspect is being connected to the following offenses: 74459w, 74831w, 79525w, 85654w, 09-001621 (Desoto PD), and 88266w. The suspect has not admitted to the offense on Martel involving the children or the offense on Matilda but we strongly feel he was involved in those as well.

WE ARE NOT RELEASING NAME/PHOTO UNTIL ALL THE VICTIMS CAN VIEW A LINE UP. This could jeopardize the remaining cases.

We will release his name once the Detectives tell us all victims have been shown the line up.

Update on East Dallas Carjackings

Deputy Chief Vince Golbeck provided the following update on East Dallas carjackings late this afternoon:

I know there is a lot of concern regarding the recent individual robberies that have occurred in and/around your neighborhoods. This is an update to the bulletin I sent at 4:00 pm. I want to clarify some misinformation that is being distributed through private individuals’ email networks that I’ve received since so please share the following with them:

A carjacking incident involving a wf/35 occurred today approximately 1:25 p.m. in the 6300 block of Martel Avenue. There were no other robberies today in this area. The driver had her 7 y/o daughter and 9 y/o son in the vehicle when she was backing out of her driveway into the rear alley. She exited vehicle to move a trash container when the suspect approached her and was wearing an orange/yellow reflective work type vest over dark blue sweatshirt. Suspect had a toy chrome handgun that we recovered at the location after the complainant struggled with the suspect since he was driving away with her children in the vehicle. The suspect did allow the children to exit the vehicle. There were no injuries. Suspect fled in complainant’s vehicle – 2005 Green Ford Expedition. He matches the description of eight previous incidents since February 5th that have occurred in Central, Northeast, Southwest, and one possibly out of town. Several of the vehicles have been recovered in South Central Division.

There was information being distributed that there was another offense today and that it occurred at Stonewall Jackson Elementary and that is not the case. There were concerns of the elementary school being in lockdown but the principal can make that decision for student safety reasons, however, the incident did not occur near the school.

Further Suspect description is: Black Male, 35-50, 5’8″ – 6’2″, 160-180 pounds. Suspect may be unshaven with a little gray and have missing or gaps in teeth. Also please confirm any additional information with the Dallas Police Department before distribution and we’ll keep you posted on any updates.

We had added additional patrols in the neighborhoods, which will continue, and intel has been distributed Departmental wide.

Today at the City Council meeting….

Here are some highlights from today’s council meeting:

Apartments Crime Reduction Program – We approved an ordinance that will require apartment complexes with excessive crime rates to participate in a mandatory crime reduction program administered and enforced by the Police Department. Run-down apartments are a breeding ground for crime, so this new program is absolutely critical. As I said today, though, we can’t make crime prevention a burden that’s born solely by our police; we must invest MUCH more in code enforcement.

Little Forest Hills Conservation District – (District 9) On Councilmember Kadane’s motion, we denied this CD. On zoning cases, I generally defer to the councilmember who represents that district because (1) I believe the voters in that district elected that person to reflect their values (which will be reflected in the councilmember’s zoning decision), (2) voters can vote out someone who makes zoning decisions they don’t agree with, (3) that councilmember has usually worked closely with the community on zoning cases and can best represent their position. I am very supportive of CDs because I’ve seen in my own neighborhood how beneficial it’s been. Someone at the meeting suggested that CDs reduce property values. The facts belie that claim: property values have risen significantly in the M Streets and other CDs in our city; people like the certainty of knowing what type of development can go up around them. Councilmember Kadane had asked the LFH CD proponents to attain 65% support from all residents, and they fell short, with 58%. I know how hard their worked, and my heart goes out to them. I hope LFH is able to find another way to protect their trees and keep themselves “funky,” such as through a planned development district, as was suggested today. Otherwise, I fear we’ll lose what is one of the coolest neighborhoods in our city.

Goodwill Drop-Off on Haskell – Here, Goodwill wanted to put in a small building that would serve as a drop-off for donations. It wouldn’t have had any retail component at all. Surrounding neighbors worried about an increase in traffic on an already busy street, as well as the possibility that people would drop things off while the site was closed, resulting in litter and a haven for the homeless or theives. I worked with Goodwill and the neighborhood for months to try to reach a compromise, and delayed this case more than once. As a matter of right, Goodwill could put in a retail store today without special dispensation from the city, and that is a more intense use than a drop-off. However, at the end of the day, 41 property owners voted “no,” and 41 voted “yes.” With such a split, I couldn’t justify a zoning change. To me, the zoning on the ground is the default, and the property owner has to show a compelling reason to change it. Part of that reason may be that the neighborhood strongly supports the change. Here, that wasn’t the case, and I couldn’t support a zoning change. Goodwill is such an amazing organization and does so much for our city. I wish the neighbors had been able to reach a compromise here.

Far West SUP – Residents near the Far West club at Gaston/Grand had grown frustrated with problems stemming from the club — crime, noise, traffic, etc. Usually, bars have to have a short-term “specific use permit” that lets them operate under certain conditions. The SUP process involves a public hearing and approval of the City Council. A bar that causes problems runs the risk of the neighbors opposing the renewal of the SUP, so the bar has an incentive to be a good neighbor. That is dependent on an SUP that expires every couple of years. Here, for whatever reason, the City Council gave the predecessor to Far West a 99-year SUP. That’s nuts. At the request of the neighborhoods I recommended the city reduce the time period for the SUP and put other restrictions in place. After working cooperatively with the club owner and residents, we were able to reach an agreement on a 5-year SUP with traffic and safety requirements. I’m very proud that we were able to make this change.

Dog Run for CityVet on McKinney – I postponed this for a month so the applicant can work with the surrounding neighbors on trying to reach a compromise.

GPS System for Garbage Trucks – At a cost of $700k, the GPS system is supposed to help track trucks, reduce inefficiencies, and save money. That sounds good, but having ridden on a garbage truck, I saw firsthand some of the problems our sanitation workers encounter that slow them down: overgrown alleys being #1. If we cleared the problem alleys, we’d speed up service and prevent our men from speeding down streets to make up for lost time (not that they should be speeding anyway). I don’t really think we’ve got the money to do this, given today’s economy, but if we do have an extra $700k, I think we should spend it on giving our sanitation workers a raise. They make minimum wage right now, and $700k would almost get them to a living wage (a $3/hr. increase). Alternatively, we could spend that on cleaning up alleys, or hiring 1-2 mechanics that are needed to fix air-conditioners and heaters in the trucks (that are frequently broken). A majority of the council, including me, voted to postpone the matter and have a briefing to get more info.

UNT Law School in Downtown We unanimously authorized the City Manager to enter into final negotiations with the University of North Texas to establish a law school in what is currently the city courthouse. (We desperately need a new courthouse and will include that in the 2010 bond program.) The legislature has to approve the law school, but I am very hopeful that it will pass this session.

Lastly, I’m not shy about speaking up when I disagree with the Mayor, so I want to take a moment to compliment him on the way he handles public hearings. One, he is very respectful of the time people take out of their schedules to come down to City Hall, and tries to move up cases involving large groups of people. Before I was elected, I remember coming to City Hall and spending 8 hours waiting for our neighborhood’s case to be heard. This is a welcome change.

Two, even when a group’s time to speak before the Council has expired, the Mayor lets opponent/advocates come to the microphone and enter their name and opinion into the record. This takes a little time, especially with large groups, but I think it really shows a great courtesy to citizens who have taken off work to spend their afternoon at City Hall.

Good News — Crime Hasn’t Been This Low in Dallas Since the 1960s!

We’ve got a lot of work to do to make Dallas a safer city, but I was really pleased by the report I received this week on crime reduction for 2008. Basically, Dallas’ crime rate is lower than it’s been since the 1960s, and the total NUMBER of murders — not just per capita — is also the lowest it’s been since that tie-dyed era. Continue reading

What’s the City Doing to Make Dallas Safer?

I share the frustration that, yet again, Dallas appears at the top of the pack for crime. But I take issue with the argument I’ve read elsewhere that “the City of Dallas won’t dedicate the resources necessary to reduce the crime rate.”

The issue is not one of funding. The Council is adding $40M in next year’s budget for 100 more cops, new police cars, a new computer dispatch system, and more 911 operators.

But, you say, we need even MORE cops. And you’re absolutely right. But the problem isn’t that the Council won’t fund more police. The problem is that we can’t get that many QUALIFIED recruits to fill more than 100 positions a year (assuming we can fill that many).

Keep in mind, we lose about 150 cops a year to retirement, resignations, etc., and we’ve got to fill not only their positions, but hire an additional 100 on top of that. In years past, we just haven’t had enough qualified recruits to fill the positions.

There are two keys to addressing this problem. First, we have to increase bonuses/other benefits to lure recruits. This year, the council approved a $10,000 recruit bonus (which they get over 18 months), and this has already resulted in a significant increase in applicants. (In my opinion, if recruits don’t remain with Dallas, and head to the suburbs after we trained them, they should pay us back.)

Second, we must increase police benefits and pay to make their compensation comparable to surrounding areas. Again, the council approved a good compensation package for police and fire earlier this year, which was supported by all the police associations.

We can and must go further with a strong compensation package for our DPD, to retain and attract the best police officers, and these measures are a good beginning.

Lastly, Dallas’ crime rate is going down. I know this doesn’t change the fact that compared to other cities, we have a long ways to go. But the fact is, the efforts of our new police chief and investment by the Council are paying off.

If you’ve got ideas about improving public safety, I welcome them.

Violence on Greenville

Last night around 2 a.m., a man was shot and murdered on Martel near Greenville Avenue. Two bar patrons apparently got into an argument, and one man took a gun from his truck and shot the other. The murder suspect, a Plano resident, is in police custody.

On Lower Greenville, four people were hospitalized after leaving a bar. The suspect remains at large.

This type of violence is unacceptable in our neighborhoods. I will be meeting with Police Chief David, Central Division Chief Brian Harvey, and Northeast Division Chief Jan Easterling to address these problems.