Smoke in a restaurant, solicit a stranger for cash, or let your dog poop in a park without cleaning up all violate high-profile, politically charged Dallas laws passed this decade. Odds are overwhelming that you won’t pay a penalty – to say nothing of getting caught – even if you regularly scoff at the law, according to a Dallas Morning News analysis of ordinance violation records through November. Fewer than 1 in 330 people ticketed under Dallas’ anti-panhandling ordinance ever pays a fine, and about 1 in 5 satisfies the citation by serving jail time. One address accounts for nearly half of the people cited under the city’s strengthened anti-smoking ordinance–a residence for the homeless. Smoking in restaurants represents a minority of alleged code violations. Nine people have been cited for violating the six-year-old “pooper scooper” law. Seven occurred on one day in 2005. “You do have to ask the question: How many government resources are being spent on things that have little or no effect?” Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill saids.
Other officials say the ordinances, each of which was the subject of contentious council debates, are to varying degrees successful. Smoking in restaurants is infrequent, panhandlers don’t operate unfettered, and pet owners voluntarily carry waste implements, they say. “We can do better on anything,” said City Manager Mary Suhm. “But the point is compliance, not knocking everyone upside the head. The importance is the result. And you see less smoking in the restaurants. It’s harder to panhandle. That’s good news to me.”