Kunkle praises Oak Lawn crime watch group’s efforts
Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle told the Oak Lawn Apartment Managers and Stakeholders Crime Watch on Wednesday, July 18, that “recent crime numbers are indicative that life is good.”
Both the Central and Northwest divisions, which make up the Oak Lawn area, saw a decrease in crime over the past month. Northwest had the larger drop.
In that division crime fell from a monthly average of 30 to 40 offenses to 24.
“The most impressive part of that drop is the reduction in burglary of motor vehicles,” said Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse. “Normally we have double digits of this crime. Last month we had two.”
Kunkle was particularly pleased to see the drop in the Northwest district because he said, “It’s still one of the highest crime areas in the city. But we are committed to doing everything we can to make that area safe.”
Kunkle was quick to point out that his department can’t take all the credit for the decrease in crime.
“I think where you see that drastic of improvement, you have to have a very involved group and community,” he said. “And in this city, there is no area more involved than Oak Lawn.”
The chief also said that his department is not fully to blame for the problems that still exist, either.
“Where I sit, the city is becoming safer,” he said. “But the biggest issue right now I attribute to problems down stream in the Criminal Justice System.”
Kunkle was referring to overcrowding of prisons and the recent release of part of the prisoners at county jail.
He said that these issues make arrests less effective than they were a year ago because people are back on the streets much sooner.
“I don’t blame anyone,” Kunkle said. “It’s just what we have to deal with.”
To solve this problem, Kunkle wants the department to focus more on repeat offenders who they consider to be the most dangerous to society.
Last fall, Kunkle piloted the program by having the department pick out five offenders it considered most dangerous. One had been previously arrested more than 40 times, and another was a prime suspect in a murder case just weeks later.
“It’s a new system, and we still have to work some kinks out,” Kunkle said. “But I think it will be very effective for us.”
Kunkle also said that the department is continuing to hire more officers in an effort to reduce crime.
Right now, the DPD has more than 3,100 officers, the most ever. But they still aren’t close to their goal of three officers per every 1,000 people. In order to reach that, they will have to hire more than 2,000 officers in the next five years.
That takes resources, which aren’t easy to come by in this year’s city budget.
“Everybody is on this “‘no higher taxes,’ but we have to have a way to pay for these services,” Crime Watch member P.D. Sterling said. “If you really hate taxes, get yourself a mountaintop in Colorado. You won’t have fire, police or medical help, but your taxes will be a lot lower.”
Kunkle went on to say that hiring new officers is more than just a financial issue.
“Gaining too many new officers creates management issues, because the chain of command is not as clear.
“Because of that, we will top off our recruitment at 400 to 500 new officers per year that is, if we can find this many qualified people applying, which is a tough challenge today.”
Until the department reaches its hiring goal, Kunkle said he wants people to focus on the impressive gains so far.
“I know that the murder in your area in April destroyed any sense of safety you might have had,” he said. “But Oak Lawn is getting safer, and we don’t plan on that trend stopping any time soon.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 13, 2007