Dallas police chief: ‘There is a gang problem'

Two weeks after a FOX 4 investigation revealed the Dallas Gang Unit may be critically understaffed, the Dallas police chief admitted the city has a gang problem.

Dallas Police Chief David Pughes says drive-by shootings are up 148 percent in the city. This comes after our investigation found that for a period in 2015 and most of 2016, the gang unit was actually taken off the gang beat.

"I'm acknowledging yes there is a gang problem,” the chief said. “We can tell by the number of shootings into buildings."

The city has seen drive-by shootings, like one in October where a child was shot while in her parents’ car.

Our investigation found the Dallas Gang Unit had been re-assigned months before the October shooting. In the fall of 2015, they were assigned to answer 911 calls. Then in most of 2016, they were assigned to the violent crime task force.

Wes Melton is a former senior corporal who worked with the Dallas Gang Unit. He says he researched how many of Dallas' homicides involved a gang member, but he says his superiors shut down his research.

“My heart goes out to the citizens of Dallas, that's who is hurting,” he said.

On Monday, DPD said there are 28 members on its gang unit, but Melton says only eight officers are fighting Dallas gang crime full-time.

FOX 4’ Lori Brown asked Chief Pughes about the gang unit being reassigned.

"Could it have made a difference if we had kept the gang unit assigned specifically to gang activity?” she asked.

“It could have made a difference. I think we would still see a spike based on what we're seeing in other states,” he said. “I don't think the city and their resources is the problem. The problem is we are in the middle of the pension crisis that led to the attrition. And we're facing problem every department is facing: the ability to recruit people who see law enforcement as positive has dwindled.”

Pughes is hoping to combat the lack of manpower in the department with a gang unit training program. Every 30 days, five officers will be trained to spot gang activity and then go back to their divisions.

Dallas Council Member Tiffinni Young hopes it works.

“Even in my neighborhood, I know I hear gunshots every night,” she said.

By May 2016, the city of Dallas saw 49 drive-by shootings. So far this year, there have been 122 shootings.