Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson on violent crime spike: ‘It is not too big for us to handle'

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson has been for a little over 60 days, and one of the biggest issues for the city continues to be violent crime.

Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall accepted the governor's offer to provide DPS Troopers to bolster the force, and she targeted eight high-crime areas with her officers. The mayor responded by creating a civilian task force to comb through data.

There have been 141 homicides in Dallas so far this year. That's 22 more than the same time last year. Many of them are young victims.

Mayor Eric Johnson says violence will not be tolerated under his watch. After working in Austin as a state representative for nine years, he now leads the city that raised him.

During the final stretch of the campaign, the Dallas murder rate spiked.

The Dallas police chief said the 40 murders in May made it the deadliest month on record in decades.

Johnson's opponent called it a public safety crisis. Johnson said that was fear mongering.

"Crisis seems to me that the situation is too big for me to handle. It is not too big for us to handle, and we are dealing with it," he said. "Our police department is doing what they need to do, and we are going to continue to stay focused on this violent crime issue. But there are things that the community needs to do, and I am actually focused on that right now."

Now two months in office, Johnson faces a big public safety task.

For health reasons, Chief Hall was out of the office for a month. DPS Troopers were sent to help patrol because of the Dallas officer shortage violent crime spike.

Johnson says the troopers coming was a $2 million expense to DPS. The mayor created a task force that met for the first time Friday. It was in response to the death of a 9-year-old girl killed days before her first day of school.

"This task force has a task, it is to go to the community, work with the community to come back with actionable solutions, like actual proposals to be presented to the Dallas City Council and city manager for implementation," Johnson said. "Then there has to be force behind it. That's the other half of task force. What that means is the person who has the power in this situation, in this case the mayor, city manager, has to be committed to supporting the efforts of the task force."

Mayor Johnson thinks other improvements, like getting more people employed, will help reduce crime. He says he will focus on economic development in South Dallas.

"There is a skills mismatch in our city, where there are many jobs that people could fill right now that are going unfilled because people that we have here locally does not have the exact skill set that's needed but those skills are not that hard to obtain," he said. "It doesn't require going to college for four years or getting a master's degree. It means going to one of our local community colleges for a year. Two at the most to get a certificate or an associates degree and then, you are talking making $60, 70, 80,000 a year that is a real game-changer and that's where my focus is: Southern Dallas. That is where the potential is."

Chief Hall will return to work on Monday in a limited capacity.

A new recruiting class graduated on Friday, but the need for more officers is still a top priority for the department.