Coalition for Public Safety meeting discusses crime in the city
DeSoto Police Chief Joe Costa started the special DeSoto City Council meeting last 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 endemic. We don’t have a city riddled with crime. Crime is under control. We have an upsurge in gun violence. We’ll show you what some of them are for this year… It’s important to know that we have a plan to address and reduce both gun violence and drug use. I want you to understand that the city has been a safe city. ”
Costa went on to point out that over the past five years, some crimes have increased slightly while others have increased significantly. He noted homicides were up to six last year from three the year before. In addition, he pointed out that the previous year there were none at all. He went on to note that thefts were down 27%. Sexual offenses increased by 23%, but in 99% of them the victim knew the aggressor. Although it’s not good, it lets everyone know that there is no one running to commit serial rape or sexual assault.
Chief calls for greater community involvement
There were 66 total calls for shooting assaults in the first three months of 2022. This is a significant increase. The leader noted that there were more guns and more violence. The “good aspect” of the shooting incidents is that there were only three shootings with injuries. Reviewing the details of this year’s shooting, Costa noted that the first was very significant in that it took place at the apartment of a known drug dealer. One of the injured in this shooting hid under a car, went to a neighbor’s house and called his girlfriend.
However, no one called the police to report the suspects. The chief insisted that the police be contacted whenever there is an incident that they should be aware of. He went on to say that the police made several arrests for this crime. Drugs, firearms, spent shell casings and more were recovered from the scene. He went on to detail other incidents and noted that in too many cases the police were not informed. Greater citizen involvement is needed, Costa stressed.
Costa’s plea was for citizens to partner with the police so that they are comfortable reporting crimes and possible criminal activity. This partnership can help save a life and reduce crime in general. He continued to point out that complaining on social media will not stop the crime, but informing the police can. The advice provided will remain confidential.
Creation of a high intensity crime unit
Chief Costa noted that there are specific areas where crime is more prevalent and that a special unit is being created to target and prevent crime. The “High Intensity Crime Unit” will use 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 monitored. Officers will be asked to exercise discretion while having zero tolerance for the possession of firearms and the distribution of illegal narcotics. Costa said he would let people know where the police are and what the targeted operation will be through a media notification. Focus Daily News undertakes to publish any information provided in this regard.
There are currently 81 police officer positions with six vacancies. Four officers are in training in the field, five at 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 were able to fill all positions, the additional 15 officers would be assigned as follows: eight on patrol, one as a school resource officer, one as a public information officer to provide information to the newspaper and social media posting, two assigned to traffic, two to the High Intensity Crimes Unit and one to the CID (Domestic Violence) Unit.
Chief Costa said officers’ pay must also be in line with other similar agencies. He said he currently has two agents who applied to Irving because he has a bigger department and the salary is higher. Whether he will really lose these officers or others, he does not know.
The chief would like to add two additional officers per year if the budget allows. His goal would be to deploy them to the Interactive Policing Unit, Traffic Unit, High Intensity Crime Reduction Unit, Narcotics Unit and bring back a K-9 agent.
Diversity in the department
There’s a desire for diversity in all aspects of modern life, and it’s no different at the DeSoto Police Department. Currently, 44% of the department is white (it was 61% in 2015). 28% are black, down from 25% in 2015. Twenty-four percent are Hispanic, up from 11% in 2015. There are currently 65 male officers and 10 female officers. The city’s demographics are 68.9% Black, 15.5% Hispanic, 13.3% White, and 4% Asian.
This concluded Chief Costa’s presentation and Mayor Rachel Proctor then called on the public and council to ask questions.
The questions started with a lady asking if a video was available if it could be downloaded. Chef Costa answered yes. The lady then asked about people who appear to be walking down the street and then approach a house as if they were living there if the police could be called to investigate. Chief Costa said they could be called upon, but were sometimes limited in what they could legally do. He added that it is important to inform the police of these activities and of any suspicious activity. She went on to say that speed was increasingly becoming an issue. The chief said speed trailers and officers are working to try to fix the speeding issue and the city will continue to do so. He said speed bumps weren’t possible because they would get in the way of emergency vehicles too much.
The next question was about ensuring there would never be a “George Floyd” type incident at DeSoto. The Chief replied that the department is under constant surveillance, and while everyone is human and mistakes can be made, there are no signs that 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 get it done.
This ended citizens’ questions with Mayor Proctor, then turned the floor over to council for questions, to which the mayor and Chief Costa responded.