With summer approaching, thoughts turn to warmer weather, the end of the school year, and summer vacations. For police departments though, it typically means an increase in crime and a time to plan for various summer crime initiatives to stem this spike in offenses.
Last year, the Dallas (TX) Police Department’s summer crime initiative, Operation Triangle, attempted to capitalize on the gains made over the past several years of decreasing crime overall. Past summer initiatives usually involved the use of overtime to assign extra officers to hot spots. However, like most departments, Dallas faced budget challenges and had to address any initiative without the use of overtime or incurring any additional costs, causing commanders to re-evaluate and come up with alternative plans.
Deputy Chief Malik Aziz and the Northwest Division Officers
Overseen by Deputy Chief Malik Aziz, Operation Triangle attempted to take a proactive and well-planned approach in reducing overall crime during the three-month period from June 9th through September 7th by involving every division and unit, and utilizing every resource available. Combined with on-going programs, which included targeting suspects who have single-handedly committed more than their fair share of offenses and a focus on parolees, Operation Triangle not only stemmed the summer time spike, but resulted in a significant decrease in overall crime as well.
Operation Triangle checked the length of the record for each person arrested, as well as if they were on parole. For the most serious repeat offenders who qualified for the Impact Offender Program, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office would expedite their case to trial within sixty days of accepting it. During Operation Triangle, eighty parolees were among those arrested. Normally, when charged with a new crime parolees are released on bond for the charge until a parole revocation hearing is set, which can take a minimum of forty-five days. With this program they were kept locked up until their parole revocation hearing. While most of the parolees were given sentences of time served at their hearing and there was no more increase in the number of revocations than usual, it did give officers and the citizens of Dallas about a forty-five day break from the same offender. Keeping these offenders in jail to prevent further offenses allowed officers to concentrate on other criminals.
In utilizing every available resource, the biggest issue was coordination to ensure those resources were available at the right time and place. Coordination between the centralized units (Traffic, SWAT, Narcotics, Auto Theft, and Vice) and the Department’s seven patrol divisions was key. Patrol commanders were given discretion in developing a plan specific to their division and determining what resources they needed. Weekly meetings were held to ensure accountability, to keep everyone informed, to track progress, and to coordinate resources among the divisions. If the plan was not producing the expected results, assistance was given in addressing those issues or making needed changes.
Many members of the department, from the command staff to first line supervisors, commented that they had not seen this level of cooperation between the various units and divisions before. Obviously teamwork was the key, and without it, coordination efforts would falter and the overall plan itself would not have been successful.
Playing to the strengths of the units participating, and using them in regards to their specific duties was a major component of the plan. In years past, SWAT might be pulled from their normal duties to augment patrol officers in patrolling hot spots, such as apartment complexes. This time, SWAT was used to do what they do best: running high profile arrest and search warrants.
Property crime, addressed primarily by patrol, focused on previously identified high offense areas. Adjustments were made when needed based on timely intelligence information from crime analysts. Covert officers assisted patrol as needed and focused on catching previously identified suspects in the act of committing an offense. Arrest warrants obtained were held for seven days, giving officers and detectives time to serve them—if at all possible—before filing them with the county, which can add to the delay of service. Auto Theft was responsible for the Bait Car Program, working with the divisions to identify specific areas and times to deploy bait cars with the most effect.
Violent crime was targeted by Operation Disruption officers, a centralized group of officers that are assigned to focus only on high offense locations across the city. This time they focused only on areas with the most violent crimes, maintaining high visibility along with covert support. Officers from the Gang Unit, Traffic, Mounted, and Canine also focused on those areas and provided valuable intelligence while increasing visibility and the number of contacts made.
Public Disorder crimes were addressed by Narcotics, Vice, Divisional Crime Response Teams, and Neighborhood Police Officer Teams. Narcotics coordinated with patrol divisions to attack drug trafficking in hot spot areas through buy busts. Those efforts were also combined with Operation Hornets Nest, a program where an assigned group of officers investigated citizen complaints of drug locations to weed out erroneous complaints first. If suspicions were confirmed, they worked with Narcotics and patrol officers to close those locations down. Neighborhood police officers assisted vice with prostitution issues, bar sweeps, homeless and panhandling issues, and coordinated with Code Enforcement using ongoing programs aimed at apartment complexes with higher crime rates.
At times, all of these resources were brought together to bear on one particular area for twenty-four hours straight. These twenty-four hour operations had an immediate and direct impact on offenses and provided the community with a police presence that was hard to miss.
In continuing to improve community support and involvement, the Office of Community Affairs initiated another crime reduction program during this same time period in the South Central Division. This program focused on reaching as many residents as possible and getting them to join those that were actively involved in crime-fighting efforts with the Department. The community’s overall needs-to-address were ranked based on information collected during initial surveys. Specific concerns were addressed and the results were given back to the community during the next meeting. Residents became more engaged as they actually saw their complaints addressed, and crime dropped off dramatically in this area as a result. The goal is that as more residents become engaged, fewer resources will have to be devoted to that particular area over time.
To facilitate getting the message out to the community, Dallas area media were provided updates on the progress of Operation Triangle and reporters were invited on ride-alongs with officers. Several newspaper articles and television reports discussed Operation Triangle and its impact on the city and overall crime rates, shedding a favorable light on the Department.
Capitalizing on previous gains over the past several years, Operation Triangle was able to push those gains even further. Over the three month period from June 2010 through August 2010, violent crime decreased by 13.1 percent compared to the same period the year before, and property crime decreased by 14.9 percent compared to the year before1—all of which was accomplished while maintaining response times.
Many times, resources are not targeted to specific plans of action as they should be and initiatives may take on a more sporadic approach. While commanders need discretion to tailor operations to address problems in their areas, the number of different operations competing for resources outside the division level tends to stretch those resources and dilute the overall impact, unless they are well planned and coordinated.
Also when looking to improve performance and ways of doing things, the focus tends to be on individual divisions and units. Teamwork and coordination on a department-wide scale are sometimes neglected. Operation Triangle attempted to address those issues, and from the results and feedback from officers and the community, the Department is confident that Operation Triangle was a success. While the intensity of such an initiative cannot be sustained indefinitely, the goal is to continue the same operational methods that contributed to its success.
This year, in building on last year’s plan for the upcoming summer months, commanders hope to improve on it by making better use of the SARA model2 (Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment) to refine the measurements and evaluations of both the impact and use of individual resources. Use of Code Enforcement could be increased and 311 calls could be included to focus on those areas characterized by complaints of code violations. Also, 911 calls regarding drug houses could be mapped in conjunction with the locations of drug arrests, and warrants executed to ensure that resources are targeting the right areas and are addressing citizen complaints. To increase community involvement, more public service announcements would be used as part of a media blitz campaign. Starting earlier with the planning process and beginning the operation earlier could also increase results.
The Dallas Police Department believes Operation Triangle was a successful example of crime reduction through the efficient and effective use of resources, and they feel that its results have impacted the citizens of Dallas in a positive way and will continue to do so.
Dallas Police Department
Dallas Police Department
Deputy Chief Malik Aziz is a 18 year member of the Dallas Police Department and is currently assigned as the commander of the Northwest Patrol Division. Sergeant Stephen Gross is a 19 year member of the Dallas Police Department and is assigned to the Planning Unit.