City News Roundup

Dallas mayor’s new task force intends to use data to fight crime

Dallas mayor’s new task force intends to use data to fight crime

Mayor Eric Johnson
Mayor Eric Johnson announced The Mayor's Task Force on Safe Communities on August 19. Courtesy photo

Mayor Eric Johnson is creating a task force to fight increasing crime in Dallas, which will rely heavily on "data-driven solutions."

At a press conference on August 19, Johnson announced The Mayor's Task Force on Safe Communities, which he said will work to reduce and prevent violent crime without reliance on law enforcement.

"I believe in the Dallas Police Department, and I believe that the Dallas Police Department's focus on guns, gangs, and drugs is both smart and necessary to help reduce violent crime in our city," Johnson said. "But we can’t ask or expect law enforcement to do it all."

"To paraphrase one of our former police chiefs, we already ask cops to do too much," he said. "Police have to be social workers. They have to deal with mental health and drug addiction and cycles of abuse. And we've asked law enforcement to do all of these things in an environment where illegal guns are far too easy for criminals to obtain."

Johnson said he had not discussed the task force with police chief Renee Hall, who has been on medical leave since July, nor with other city council members.

But he has appointed three co-chairs:

  • Pastor Michael Bowie, senior pastor at St. Luke Community United Methodist Church
  • Rene Martinez, educator and community activist
  • Alan Cohen, president and CEO of the Child Poverty Action Lab

St. Luke's is located on I-30 just east of Grand Avenue, and has had Johnson as a longtime supporter; he earned the church a commemoration in 2013 by the Texas House of Representatives.

Martinez is a one-time chairman of the Dallas chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) who also worked for DISD.

Cohen, who also worked for DISD, is head of Child Poverty Action Lab, a nonprofit unveiled by Mayor Mike Rawlings in 2018 with the lofty goal of reducing poverty in the city by half in the next 20 years.

In a 2018 story, WFAA said that CPAL would use data to ease the poverty problem, stating, "the hope is that armed with data, they’ll be able to work together to produce small solutions that as a whole will have a major effect."

At the press conference, Johnson said that the city will never have enough police officers to prevent all violent crime. "What Dallas hasn't focused on enough is data and best practices," he said.

Data. Buzzword at Dallas City Hall right now.

Other members of the task force will be announced. They're expected to develop recommendations and report back to the mayor before the end of the year.

UPDATE 8-29-2019: The 13 remaining members of the task force are as follows: Marc Andres, Derrick Battie, Stephanie Elizalde, Gary Griffith, Mita Havlick, Changa Higgins, Chad Houser, Amanda Johnson, Edna Pemberton, Alex Piquero, Debbie Solis, Maria Valenzuela, and Marian Williams.