Mayoral candidate Eric Johnson says no public safety crisis days before city at 40 homicides in May

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Dallas mayoral candidate Eric Johnson criticized his opponent for “falsely” saying the city is in a public safety “crisis” days before the city hit 40 homicides for the month.

Public safety is emerging as a defining campaign issue in the waning days of what has otherwise been a low-profile runoff for Dallas mayor. The Democratic state representative placed first in the May general election and councilman Scott Griggs placed second.

But the spate of crime ending the month could reshape the final days of campaigning. The 40 homicides in the city is the most in a single month since the 1990s.

READ MORE: Dallas PD in “triage mode” after 40 May murders

In debates between the two, Griggs has said Dallas faces “public safety crisis,” including in a recent debate on Wednesday. He cited the loss of manpower and the spiking murder rate. Griggs believes he can find money to up DPD salaries even more in the general fund. Griggs was part of a council effort that voted in the past year to increase officer starting pay from $48,000 to $60,000.

Griggs reiterated his stance that there’s a serious problem in the city in an interview with FOX4 on Friday.

“This is a crisis, we need to increase police pay, increase benefits and aggressively attract and recruit more police officers,” Griggs said.

Johnson said during Wednesday’s debate that he doesn’t believe Griggs can find the extra money without taking money from other parts of the budget. He believes the city has to increase tax revenues if it wants to up police pay and recruitment efforts. Johnson’s campaign has also accused Griggs of fearmongering over the crime issue.

“We need to stop alarming people by falsely alerting them we are in a public safety “crisis”. We need to hire more police officers and improve morale and compensation in the police department. It is something we have to do as the @CityOfDallas w/out playing at folks’ fears,” Johnson tweeted on Wednesday. By Friday, the city had hit 40 homicides.

The Johnson campaign told FOX4 their candidate was not available for an in-person, on-camera interview on Friday. The campaign did release a statement attributed to Johnson.

“As Mayor, I will work with the police chief, the city manager and my colleagues to identify immediate and necessary changes that will deal with this issue head-on,” the statement said. “It's also important to remember that murders and violent crimes also are symptoms of larger challenges we all face as a city."

Griggs has the endorsement of the powerful Dallas Police Association and the Dallas Fire Fighters Association. Griggs’ first television commercial, which began airing this week on local stations, features DPA President Mike Mata and is solely focused on public safety.

“Scott has proven himself,” Mata says in the ad.

Johnson has endorsements from Black Police Association of Greater Dallas and Dallas Black Fire Fighters Association.

Early voting in the Dallas mayoral race began Monday, continues through the weekend and ends on Tuesday, June 4. Election day is Saturday, June 8.