The Dallas Police Department will require residents to fill out some police reports online instead of calling 911 to free officers to respond to more serious crimes.
The new reporting requirements will go into effect on July 3 as the police department has faced an increase in high-priority calls and staffing shortages. Chief Eddi García said Tuesday that the new system will help lessen officers’ workloads and reduce their response time for emergencies, the Dallas Morning News reported.
“We have to think about our men and women and the stress that they’re under and the constant calls,” García said during a news conference. “We have to make the working conditions of our men and women better and, at the same time, not sacrifice the service for our community — and I think this achieves that.”
Officers will no longer respond to calls for crimes such as motor vehicle burglaries, credit or debit card abuse, harassment through texts or phone calls unrelated to family violence, identity theft, reckless damage, graffiti, burglary of a coin machine, lost property, and theft and shoplifting under $2,500. Dallas police officers will also no longer respond to minor accidents when no one is injured and the vehicles are operable.
The city saw a rise in violent crime at the beginning of 2023 after two years of violent crime rates going down, Fox 4 reported. Homicides were up nearly 10%, and aggravated assault was up 15% in January 2023 compared to January 2022.
“We know firsthand in an emergency every second counts,” García remarked. “We want our officers to be available to respond quickly and efficiently to any high priority call.”
The department directed those who don’t own a computer or smartphone to use a kiosk at a police substation or a computer at a local library to file a report. According to Dallas Police 911 Administrator Robert Uribe, a voluntary process to get people to report non-emergency crimes online failed because people prefer an officer physically responding to their calls. After July 3, those who dial 911 for a call required to be reported online will be instructed on how to fill out an online report at dallaspolice.net.
Garcia said the department is short about 500 officers after hundreds left during a pension crisis in 2016-2017. There are currently 3,023 sworn officers on the force, according to Dallas Police spokeswoman Kristin Lowman, the Dallas News reported.
“We need to grow and we’re trying to grow as quickly as possible,” García said. “Our recruiting unit is working as hard as it can. But certainly, when we look at the staffing numbers where the city is today as opposed [to] when it was a smaller city years ago, those are obvious.”