- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2003

DALLAS — The murder rate in Dallas has increased sharply this year, but the police chief says the numbers don’t tell much.

The latest crime statistics — and Police Chief Terrell Bolton’s reaction — have prompted new criticism of a police department already under scrutiny after a bogus drug crackdown.

The Dallas Morning News, after a study of FBI and local crime statistics from New York, Chicago, San Antonio, San Diego, Phoenix, Houston and Los Angeles, said Wednesday that Dallas is on pace to have the highest crime rate among the nation’s largest cities for the sixth year in a row. The figures are for the first six months of 2003.

The biggest jump is a 72 percent increase in the number of homicides (137 by July 20), but crime rates also were up in almost all the lesser categories: robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, thefts and auto thefts.

Hours after the local newspaper bannered the news, Chief Bolton, who has avoided meeting with reporters since his department wound up with hundreds of pounds of crushed Sheetrock that was supposed to be cocaine from numerous arrests, held a press conference.

“We have seen a 27.7 percent decrease in actual crime from 1991 to 2002,” the chief said. “During that same period, we’ve seen a 40 percent reduction in the crime rate per capita.

“It’s almost like jumping off a cliff and going down to 2002,” he said.

The chief praised the many Crime Watch groups operating throughout the city, said crime is often “unpredictable” and that community efforts as well as police work hold the key to lowering the rates.

“We’re not the linchpin in crime fighting,” said Chief Bolton, “because that’s a collective effort. I thinking you’re whistling ‘Dixie’ if you think the police chief can have some impact on a crook or hoodlum that goes into a convenience store and pulls a gun on a clerk.”

Mayor Laura Miller called the figures “unbelievable.”

“The fact that we have such a high crime rate is inexcusable,” she said. “Just over half our budget is wrapped up in police and fire and most of that is in salaries,” the mayor said. “Therefore, I believe our citizens should be getting better protection.”

Last year, Dallas reported 92.5 crimes per 1,000 people. New York had 31; Chicago, 67; and Philadelphia, 56.

But the chief disputed that interpretation.

“There’s no way you can convince anybody of that one — that it’s safer in New York,” he said.

After the chief’s press conference Wednesday, the murder statistics and the chief’s reaction became a major topic for area talk shows and newspapers.

News columnist Steve Blow on Friday wrote, “We could laugh, but this is serious business. The chief is basically telling all those who have been shot, stabbed, beaten, burglarized, raped or robbed, ‘Quit whining! It was lots worse in ‘91.’”

The News editorialized Thursday that the latest statistics illustrate “the Dallas Police Department’s downward slide under Chief Bolton.”

“First there was a $6.5 million settlement of lawsuits following Chief Bolton’s early personnel shakeup. Then there was the infamous fake drug scandal, which subjected dozens of wrongly accused individuals to jail time and which is likely to wind up costing the city untold millions in civil cases.”

The News said Chief Bolton “simply must reverse his department’s slide. If he can’t do it by the time the next public report is made in six months, Dallas needs to find a chief who can.”

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