Public Safety Coalition Meeting Discusses Crime in the City
DeSoto Police Chief Joe Costa began the special DeSoto City Council meeting this past week with the statement “Rumors fly all the time and people get their messages from social media, NextDoor and the like …Crime in the city is not rampant. We don’t have a crime riddled city. Crime is being controlled. We have an uptick in gun violence. We will show you what some of those are for this year… It’s important to know that we have a plan to address both gun violence and drug use and bring them down. I want you to understand the city has been a safe city. ”
Costa continued pointing out that in the past five years some crimes have gone up by a little while others have gone up by a lot. He noted that homicides were up to six last year from three the previous year. In addition, he pointed out that the year before there were none at all. He continued noting robberies have gone down by 27 percent. Sex offenses were up 23 percent, but in 99 percent of those, the victim knew the offender. While that is not good, it does let everyone know there is not someone running around committing serial rapes or sexual assaults.
Chief Urges More Community Involvement
There were 66 total calls for shooting assaults the first three months of 2022. This is a significant increase. The chief noted there are more guns out there and more violence. The “good aspect” of the shooting incidents is that there were only three shootings with injuries. In reviewing the details of this year’s shooting, Costa noted the first was very significant in that it was in the apartment of a known drug dealer. One of those wounded in this shooting hid under a car, went to a neighbor’s home and called his girlfriend.
However, no one called the police to report the suspects. The chief urged that police be contacted whenever there is an incident they should be notified of. He continued saying police did make several arrests on that crime. Drugs, guns, spent casings and more were recovered at the scene. He went on to detail other incidents and noted that in too many cases police were not notified. More involvement by citizens is needed, Costa emphasized.
Costa’s plea was that citizens partner with the police so they are comfortable when reporting crimes and possible criminal activities. This partnership can help save a life as well as lower crime overall. He continued to emphasize complaining on social media will not stop crime, but notifying police can. Tips provided will be kept confidential.
High Intensity Crime Unit to be Created
Chief Costa noted that there are specific areas where crime is more prevalent and a special unit is being created to target and prevent crimes. The “high intensity crime unit” will employ covert surveillance in unmarked cars and use other tactics to prevent crime before it happens. Vehicles and people involved in drug crimes and other criminal activities will be identified and watched. Officers will be told to use discretion while at the same time having zero tolerance for gun possession and distribution of illegal narcotics. Costa said he would let people where police would be and what the targeted operation would be through media notification. Focus Daily News promises to publicize any information provided in this regard.
There are currently 81 police officer positions with six vacancies. Four officers are in field training, five in the police academy, and one officer has announced his resignation. There are 66 officers currently deployed, eleven on each 12 hour patrol shift.
If the department was able to get all positions filled, the 15 additional officers would be assigned as follows: eight on patrol, one as a school resource officer, on as a public information officer to provide information to the newspaper and post on social media, two assigned to traffic, two to the high intensity crime unit and one to CID (the family violence) unit.
Chief Costa said that pay for officers needs to be in line with other similar agencies as well. He said he currently has two officers who have applied at Irving because it has a larger department and the pay is more. Whether he actually will lose those officers or others he does not know.
The chief would like to add two more officers per year if the budget permits. His goal would be to deploy them in the interactive policing unit, the traffic unit, the high intensity crime reduction unit, the narcotics unit and to bring back a K-9 officer.
Diversity in the Department
There is a desire for diversity in all aspects of modern life and it is no different in the DeSoto Police Department. Currently 44 percent of the department is white (it was 61 percent back in 2015). 28% is black whereas it was 25 percent in 2015. Twenty-four percent is Hispanic, up from 11 percent in 2015. There are 65 male officers and 10 female officers currently. The demographics of the city are 68.9 percent black, 15.5% Hispanic, 13.3% white and 4% Asian.
This concluded Chief Costa’s presentation and Mayor Rachel Proctor then called for questions from the audience and the council.
The questions began with a lady asking if a video was available if it could be uploaded. Chief Costa replied that it could. The lady then asked about people who seem to be walking down the street and then approach a home as if they live there if the police can be called to investigate. Chief Costa said they can be called, but are sometimes limited in what they can legally do. He continued that it is important to notify the police about those and any suspicious activities. She continued saying speeding is becoming more and more of a problem. The Chief said that speed trailers and officers were working to try to address the speeding problem and the city would continue to do this. He said speed bumps were not possible because they would inhibit emergency vehicles too much.
The next question had to do with insuring that there would never be a “George Floyd” type incident in DeSoto. Chief replied that the department is constantly monitored and, although everyone is human and mistakes can be made, there are no indications that any such problems are looming in the city. The next citizen noted that information could be put on the DeSoto library website and even said she would be willing to help to see that this is done.
That concluded citizen questions with Mayor Proctor then turning it over to Council for questions, which the Mayor and Chief Costa addressed.