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Gov. Abbott is sending state police to help combat violent crime in Dallas. A similar effort last year proved controversial.

🕐 3 min read

by Jolie McCullough, The Texas Tribune.

Gov. Greg Abbott is again sending Texas state police into Dallas as the city experiences a spike in shootings. The governor’s deployment, announced Wednesday, carries echoes of a controversial Texas Department of Public Safety operation in the city last year that some community members said led to over-policing and racial profiling.

Last weekend was Dallas’ deadliest of the year, with seven fatal shootings, according to The Dallas Morning News, bringing the total homicide count for the year to 220. The Morning News reported that the total surpassed last year’s 210 homicides, but still fell far below the record high of 500 in 1991. According to the Morning News, Dallas police said the fatal shooting last week of a Dallas-area rapper appeared to be “loosely” related to the recent surge in violence.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the swell of violent crime required an “all-hands-on-deck response.”

On Wednesday, Abbott stepped in. In a statement, he said that at the request of city police, he was sending DPS special agents, troopers, intelligence analysts and Texas Rangers to “reduce violent crime and protect the communities in the city of Dallas.” Johnson said he was grateful for the governor’s assistance.

“The rise in violent crime in the city of Dallas is unacceptable, and the Texas Department of Public Safety will assist the Dallas Police Department in their efforts to protect the community and reduce this surge in crime,” Abbott said.

The governor’s statement said agents and troopers would help gang and drug investigations, the Rangers would help investigate homicides, and the state police would also provide two helicopters and two patrol planes. A spokesperson for Abbott did not respond to further questions or specify how many DPS law enforcement officers would be deployed.

The initial announcement of the operation sounds similar to DPS’ “Operation D-Town,” under which Abbott sent DPS into the city last June to help combat a spike in murders and violent crime. The operation lasted three months.

The agency touted the operation, and after two months, Dallas police reported a significant drop in violent crime in the areas where DPS was deployed. But some city officials and community members said the troopers did more harm than good.

Community members complained of DPS troopers over-policing in poorer neighborhoods with mostly residents of color, questioning people about their immigration status and stopping people without valid reasons. Last August, troopers in Dallas during the operation fatally shot Schaston Hodge, 27. The Morning News reported that Hodge was holding a gun when he got out of his car after leading troopers on a brief chase when they attempted to stop him for failing to signal a turn.

In a record obtained by The Texas Tribune showing more than 500 DPS arrests made in Dallas during the operation, 64% of the people arrested were Black. Dallas’ population is 24% Black. About half of the arrests were for drug crimes.

Although DPD and Johnson have requested outside help to assist in the recent swell of violent crime, activists and scholars, since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, have voiced resistance to the idea that more police officers leads to more safety. In efforts across the country to cut police funding, academics have argued public safety would be better served by investing money into other social programs.

“Increased police in communities doesn’t create public safety,” Alan Dettlaff, dean of the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work, told the Tribune in June. “What creates public safety is well-funded schools, access to mental health services, access to health insurance and quality health care.”

Disclosure: The University of Houston has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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