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The following article appeared on the front page of the Houston Chronicle on August 8, 2003.  The article acknowledges efforts of dallascrime.com in exposing the magnitude of the crime crisis in Dallas to the local media. 

Aug. 8, 2003, 11:19PM

Arresting discovery puts Dallas ahead in crimes

By JIM HENDERSON
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle Dallas Bureau

DALLAS -- The numbers have been lying there for years, blinking from FBI reports as benignly as graffiti on a park bench.

It wasn't until Calie Stephens, a Dallas citizen angry over the proliferation of crime in his own neighborhood, began tinkering with the torque of the numbers that City Hall took notice.

Mayor Laura Miller called the figures "unbelievable." City Councilman John Loza called them "unacceptable." The Dallas Observer called them "staggering." The Dallas Morning News suggested it may be time for a new police chief.

What the fuss is about is the seemingly sudden discovery that Dallas has the highest per capita overall crime rate among America's largest cities -- those with populations of more than 1 million.

Moreover, Dallas has been No. 1 since 1998 and is on track this year to claim the crown again and to move into first in one category -- murder -- where it traditionally has been nosed out by Chicago, Philadelphia and, occasionally, Los Angeles.

Over that same period, Houston has ranked fourth or fifth in all crimes among the nine cities.

"We've got the highest crime rate and what's on the front page? A ... smoking ban," said Calie Stephens, an engineer who's been trying to expose the startling numbers for nearly two years. "It's a complete lack of priorities."

The FBI gathers statistics on major crimes -- murder, rape, robbery, burglary, larceny, auto theft, arson and aggravated assault -- that are reported to local law enforcement agencies. The totals are published in the agency's Uniform Crime Reports.

Stephens was dissatisfied with the city totals because they did not reflect the probability of being a victim of crime in any particular location.

"Everybody knows the lottery," he said. "They know what the odds are. What are the odds of being murdered in Dallas as opposed to New York?"

New York has more murders every year because it has more people, about eight times more than Dallas.

Using Census Bureau population numbers, he began to calculate the per capita rate of crime in the nation's nine largest cities.

He was incredulous at the tallies.

"Dallas was number one for five years," he said. "I thought, `This can't be right.' "

In 2002, Dallas had 92.48 crimes per 1,000 residents -- twice the number in Los Angeles and San Diego and three times the number in New York. That year, Houston reported 74.26 crimes per 1,000 people. That was the most Houston had reported for the past five years. The lowest per capita crime rate in Houston was 68.59, logged in 2000.

While Dallas led the others in overall crime, its position varied in specific categories -- but always close to the top.

Stephens began sending letters and e-mails to City Council members.

"Everybody told me I was wasting my time," he said.

Then, in June, the Dallas Police Department released its midyear crime numbers and when Stephens did the arithmetic on them, the results were even more astonishing.

The overall crime rate was up 9.1 percent over the same period last year (Houston experienced a 3.6 percent decline during that time), but the attention grabber was murder, which was up 71 percent -- a pace that would make Dallas the murder leader by the end of this year. Robbery, assault, larceny, auto theft and burglary also were up.

Although he had been unable to generate news coverage of his findings, Stephens wrote a letter to the editor of The Dallas Morning News and enclosed his research. After checking his numbers, the paper published them and assigned a reporter to follow the story.

The City Council's Public Safety Committee summoned Police Chief Terrell Bolton for a meeting.

"We need a top to bottom efficiency study," Councilman Loza told him. "These numbers are unacceptable."

"I'd rather walk the streets of New York," said council member Mitchell Rasansky.

Bolton said he would welcome the review and told the council that "We have seen a 27.7 percent decrease in actual crime from 1991 to 2002. during that time we've seen a 40 percent reduction in the crime rate per capita."

The crime rate in Dallas reflected a nationwide trend that saw the crime rate steadily decline between 1991 and 2001 to levels not seen since the 1960s.

Late last week, Janice Houston, a Dallas Police Department press officer, said the 71 percent increase in murders this year was because of a spate of multiple homicides in June. Compare the two years through July instead of June, she said, and "we're already down to 42 percent."

Despite the statistical fluctuations, the City Council appears inclined to lean harder on the Police Department.

Along with an efficiency review, Loza said in an interview last week, the council also will study what other cities have done to deal with crime -- especially New York.

"Ultimately, we may have to consider a tax increase," Loza said. "If we add to the force, there's no getting around that fact."

Stephens agreed: "We need more police. That's the issue."

Criminologists have long held that the level of crime decreases in inverse proportion to an ascending number of law enforcement officers on the street, but Stephens' research suggests other factors are involved.

For example, Dallas has 3.1 officers per 1,000 citizens, but a per capita crime rate twice as high as Los Angeles, with 3.3 per 1,000 people.

Houston, which also trails Dallas, has 3.8. Philadelphia and Chicago, the historic leaders in the murder category, have, respectively, 5.5 and 5.3 cops per 1,000 citizens.

But, the most persuasive argument that such numbers count is in New York. The city with the lowest overall per capita crime rate in the past five years has 7.2 cops per 1,000 residents.

"We could double our police force and still not equal New York," Stephens said.

 

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HOUSTON CHRONICLE