Like many police departments, Dallas' allows citizens to file crime reports online. Starting July 3, Dallas police will require online reports for a host of low-level crimes that police say they lack the time to respond to in person, the Dallas Morning News reports. If people call 911 for a list of crimes including motor vehicle break-ins, criminal mischief, shoplifting under $2,500, and minor accidents with no injuries, they’ll be instructed on how to file a report online. Police Chief Eddie Garcia said the new procedures are meant to boost efficiency and improve officers' working conditions, but he added that people should still call 911 for violent crimes, including domestic violence, and when they witness a crime in progress.
Response times by Dallas police to the lower-priority calls are up 30-53% this year compared to last year, and are even up 42% — to more than 90 minutes — for priority two calls, which can include domestic violence. Call volume is also up by 7.6% for the highest-priority calls. The chief did not attribute any specific reason to the increase when asked by a council member last month about the uptick in high-priority calls despite declining violent crime in recent years. He said calls can initially be called in as a violent crime, but the end result could be different. The department says it's about 500 officers short, a challenge exacerbated by steep competition with other agencies, an uptick in mental health struggles and negative perceptions about officers. Dallas police currently employ 3,023 sworn officers. About 3,500 to 3,600 officers worked in the department in 2014, but hundreds left during a pension crisis in 2016-17.