Notes from the Downtown Public Safety Follow-Up Meeting

Notes from the Downtown Public Safety Follow-Up Meeting
2.15.2016

The meeting was convened by John Crawford, President & CEO of Downtown Dallas, Inc.  He thanked everyone, including the number of Dallas Police Department (DPD), DART, and Oncor representatives present, for attending the public safety follow-up meeting at Fort Work. The purpose of the meeting was a follow-up from last month’s Downtown public safety meeting.  Crawford also thanked everyone for their collaboration and DPD Assistant Chief Tittle and DART Police Chief Spiller for participating. The overarching theme of the meeting was certainly the importance of partnerships, recognizing the need for further agency cooperation, as well as community involvement.

Crawford provided a review of the nine priority action items that were assembled from the first meeting just last month. They include:

  • Residential property safety audits. I’m pleased to report that already 25% percent of properties in the core of Downtown have participated, and we are continuing our commitment to push for 100% participation. Furthermore, Councilman Kingston assured us that he is exploring policy to enhance code requirements.
  • Ongoing collaboration. We will continue to work with stakeholder groups to coordinate public safety meetings like this to provide a forum for continued partnership. Subscribe to the Downtown Dallas, Inc. (DDI) email list and stay tuned to social media to hear about future meetings.
  • Improve DART and DPD communication. We heard from Chief Tittle (DPD) and Chief Spiller (DART) on various ways they work together to apprehend suspects and utilize technology to communicate and work together, but they also spoke about much needed improvements in processes, many of which are in the works. Chief Spiller spoke about jurisdiction and the DART Code of Conduct. He encouraged attendees to text 41411 anytime they see something suspicious on DART property or feel uncomfortable to call – this texting system will connect with a live operator who can immediately respond with appropriate action. He also reminded us about the red button on each train, that when pushed, dispatches an officer to that location. You can also pick up the phone at any station and a camera records everything happening there until an officer arrives. Additionally, you can call 214-928-6300 to directly reach DART police dispatch. Chief Spiller also announced a soon-to-be-launched app that will allow users to text/send photos directly to DART if they see something that needs to be addressed.
  • Lighting and sidewalks. DDI is working to identify “quick win” projects that can be implemented quickly with available resources. DDI has also engaged Oncor in the conversation. Longer term, the Downtown Dallas 360 plan is addressing many of the infrastructure issues to assist in setting priorities for future bond funds.
  • Merchant safety seminars. DPD has offered to visit with Downtown merchant businesses to provide safety tips for employees as well as security audits of their establishments. Merchants can email info@downtowndallas.com to request a seminar.
  • No Panhandling Campaign. DDI commits to reinvigorate its panhandling awareness campaign which is aimed at educating the public as to better ways to give, as well as the no panhandling law. Businesses may request the DDI No Panhandling posters by emailing info@downtowndallas.com.
  • Lasting solutions to address panhandling and vagrancy. These are issues that require a comprehensive approach including regulation, enforcement, and social services. Working with public policy leaders, related agencies and service providers, and the community, DDI will provide a forum for conversation and planning rooted in principles from the Dallas Ten-Year Plan. Near-term, our Downtown Safety Patrol has created a Top 10 Quality of Life offenders list to share with DPD – these are some of our most aggressive offenders, often with multiple citations. Aggressive panhandling has long been a hot topic – Chief Tittle told the crowd that there had been 162 arrests for aggressive panhandling through February 15th – a double-digit average per day. Of those 162 arrests, 21 were repeat offenders and 33 had violent criminal history. This initiative has officers running the operation 16 hours a day, which is intensive on resources, but it has proven to be a great success and attendees agreed they’ve seen an impact. Chief Tittle reiterated that the solution is a three-prong approach – regulation, social service, and enforcement. DPD can only handle enforcement – the other two are partnerships between many entities in the room.
  • Incarceration of impact offenders. DDI has been working with DPD and the Dallas County District Attorney’s office since 2010 on a specific program that targets impact offenders and efforts to ensure career criminals are held on bond, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and that plea bargains are not an option.
  • Neighborhood crime watch. Resident groups are already working to establish or grow crime watch and neighborhood patrols. In particular, the Downtown Dallas Neighborhood Association (DDNA) has made progress to that end. Steven Wollard spoke about the plans for DDNA to help facilitate the formation of a neighborhood watch. Jeanine Jiral and Teresa Patoine also spoke about the Downtown Residents Council’s (DRC) efforts over the last several years to collectively advocate for public safety improvements like establishing the First Watch, opposing TABC license renewals for liquor stores refusing to abide by the DDI-led agreement not to sell high-alcohol content single serve beer/wine, holding annual public safety meetings, and actively distributing information throughout each residential building about important issues and events.

In addition to these specific goals, DPD has made tremendous strides to combat some of the most recent critical issues. Chief Tittle outlined some very promising activities that have progressed since last meeting. First and foremost, the assailants of Sarah Hoff have both been arrested. Additionally, over 160 arrests have been made for aggressive panhandling and there have been six felony arrests for sales of K2.

Additional discussion included:

  • A push to clarify statistical reporting from DPD and DART.
  • Further policy exploration into jurisdictional issues to make monitoring and enforcement more efficient and effective.
  • Additional explanation of DART Code of Conduct rules and enforcement.
  • Reinforced need for broadened education on the no tolerance on panhandling ordinance and better ways to give.
  • The need for the community to REPORT issues we encounter.
  • Exploration into extradition of those with out of state felony warrants.

DDI would like to thank participants for another productive meeting and will continue to facilitate communication and advance action items. Stay tuned for future meeting dates that are in the works, and we encourage you to participate in our Downtown resident and merchant groups.