Dallas police have retooled procedures for dealing with crime-ridden properties after allegations that the city acted unfairly and arbitrarily in enforcing the state’s public nuisance law, says the Dallas Morning News. “We are trying to add a greater sense of fairness and equity to the process,” First Assistant Chief David Brown told a City Council committee.
Council members and an official with the local apartment association praised the proposed changes, though some critics said they may not go far enough. Last spring, controversy erupted over how the city interpreted a 2003 law that gave cities enhanced powers to crack down on businesses or individuals who tolerated crime on their properties. Critics contended that Dallas used its new powers to penalize people who were making a “good-faith effort” to prevent crime on their properties. City policy has said that three preventable crimes in one year at a property were enough to trigger an investigation by the police Support Abatement Forfeiture and Enforcement Team, or SAFE team. If the team wasn’t satisfied that the property owner had done enough to prevent crime on his property, the case would be referred to the city attorney for a possible lawsuit to force the owner to implement changes. The new process adds steps and appears designed to take a less confrontational approach with property owners.