Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall

Lake Highlands resident Renee Hall, finishing her first year as Dallas’ first female police chief, says living in our neighborhood gives her added incentive to keep our streets safe. Forest-Audelia and the Five Points area in Vickery Meadows are routinely listed among the city’s busiest crime areas, a fact Hall admits keeps her on her toes.

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Speaking to the Exchange Club Friday, Hall said the city has seen a recent increase in aggravated assault, motor vehicle and property crimes. She announced Project Safe Neighborhood, a new federal partnership involving the U.S. Attorney, FBI, ATF, DEA, state police and local law enforcement from surrounding areas. The citywide effort will begin in the next 30 days and be run out of District 10. Federal involvement will lead to mandatory minimum sentences, so perpetrators — often arrested and back “at work” quickly — will be gone from the area for three years or more.

“Our goal is not to lock up the entire community, but the entire community is not committing these crimes. These individuals who are plaguing our system, who are keeping it an unsafe place for our children to play, for us to work and live, we need to make sure those individuals are away from our neighborhood.”

Other problems may be harder to solve.

“We have some issues relating to homelessness and panhandling,” said Hall. “To be honest, right now we don’t have a solution.”

The Supreme Court has ruled that stopping panhandlers violates their constitutional rights, but officers can deal with beggars holding signs next to roadways or interfering with traffic. They can’t, though, stop panhandlers who pester you for money at the corner 7-Eleven.

Hall recently returned from the Major City Chiefs’ Conference in Nashville, where homelessness was a key topic.

“It’s bigger than the police,” Hall said. “We want to fix it because we know it leads to other things, but it’s not something the police department can do alone. We recognize it is an issue for you, and we are working to solve it.”

Hall talked about internships and other initiatives designed to build relationships and reduce “low level” crime by youth, which spikes when school lets out for summer.

“It’s a function of them being bored, and, in our community, we do have poverty. These kids are used to being in school and getting two or three meals and snacks per day.”

When asked what the community can do to help her department fight crime, she praised the Exchange Club for its quarterly recognition of police officers and firefighters and the Lake Highlands community for its overwhelming support.

“That’s what community partnerships should be,” said Hall. “This sets the tone across the country. When the community recognizes our officers, it makes them feel important. We don’t often get that.”