Publisher’s Note

Who’s responsible for Dallas’ startling crime rate—and who’s going to stop it?

The statistics are staggering. A Dallas resident is three times more likely to be a victim of a crime than a New York City resident. A resident of Dallas is twice as vulnerable as someone who lives in LA or San Diego.

What makes us so different from New York, LA, or San Diego? Do we have more criminals looking for a quick buck off a mugging? More gangs? More deranged people?

No. The only possible difference between Dallas and those other cities is that the Dallas City Council doesn’t have the will to establish order. From 1998 through 2003, according to the FBI, the crime rate in New York City plummeted by 60 percent. Meanwhile, as the City Council hemmed and hawed, ours actually increased by 3 percent—and our crime rate was already higher than anyplace else.

Under a different city manager, things were different: homicide in Dallas actually decreased from 1991 until 1999. In October 1999, the new city manager, Ted Benavides, appointed Terrell Bolton as police chief. Homicides spiked the next year, and, in 2003, were up 31 percent from 2002.

Under pressure from Mayor Laura Miller—acting alone, as she is so often forced to do—the city manager saved his job by kicking Bolton out of his. But, like so much that Benavides does, it was an act of accommodation, not an act of leadership. It would have been the latter if, years ago, the City Council had put the right people and the right strategies in place to protect our people.

The chief purpose of government is to ensure public safety. By that standard—the most basic standard—Dallas city government has failed miserably. Is this so hard? Let’s make it as simple as possible.

The crime rate in Dallas is the highest of any big city in the United States. The city manager is responsible for police. The City Council hires and fires the city manager. Based on the evidence, the city manager has failed utterly in his job. By letting him remain, the City Council is culpable for the continued endangerment of its citizens.

Yet the City Council dithers, hoping against hope that somehow Benavides will hire a competent police chief—the miracle cure!—who will sweep in on his white horse and slay the crime dragon. The question is, of course, what competent police executive would want to work for him—or them?

Miller gets it. She has from the start. She knows the City Council needs to fire Benavides, and, to her credit, she has said so. She ought to put the question on the table and demand a vote. But before she does, she ought to hold her fellow members accountable for the deplorable condition of the city they are supposed to govern.

This is not an impossible problem to fix. New York has done it. LA has done it. If they can, any city can. The strategies are there for us to copy. What we need is the leadership and the will. Council members, especially from minority districts, where crime rates are soaring, should have to go on the record: up or down, yea or nay. Fire the city manager and hire someone to restore order to our city—or let lawlessness continue.

The message ought to be loud and clear. The City Council cannot govern a city that has lost control of its streets. Every rape, robbery, and murder should be on their heads. If they won’t hold the city manager responsible, the voters should elect a City Council that will.