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Dallas Police Department, Public Choice Theory, and Warrant Rounups

Economics is the study of scarcity and choices. That is, the world has a limited amount of stuff, so what are we going to do about it? One of those limited resources is law enforcement. We only have so many police man-hours in any given year, how are we going to allocate this limited resource?

Recently, Dallas has seen a rise in the number of family violence related homicides and DPD is facing pressure to “do something”. Limited resource, plus choice = a new effort to focusing on clearing warrants for those charged with violent offenses.

From DMN-

In the city’s latest move to combat domestic violence, Dallas police will now prioritize serving arrest warrants to repeat offenders and to abusers of victims believed to be in imminent danger.

Prioritizing arrest warrants for abusers who are flagged as particularly dangerous was one change announced Thursday afternoon at a city hall press conference. The chair of the city’s domestic violence task force, councilwoman Delia Jasso, said the city is working with Dallas police and local shelters to make changes to decrease domestic violence.

At any given time Dallas has thousands of outstanding warrants for all kinds of cases. DPD has a limited number of officers to serve these warrants and track down these suspects. You’d think that law enforcement would always focus on keeping us safe, and prioritize violent offenders. But, then you’d be mistaken. Government actors and institutions can be as self interested as private corporations, doing what’s best for them, not for the public. The focus on previous high profile warrant roundups had been unpaid traffic tickets, not violent offenders.

It’s time to pause and reflect on how how screwed up the Texas criminal justice system is. In Texas, class C (tickets) level offenses do not allow jail time as a possible punishment. That is, you could be guilty of speeding without a seat belt with an open container and expired inspections stickers; and no judge or jury could sentence you to a minute in jail as punishment. Texas also has an often ignored Constitutional amendment that forbids imprisoning people for debt.

Still, the Texas traffic tax machine runs unabated by civil liberty concerns. Our State routinely locks up poor Texans in government cages until they break down and pay.

About choices; DPD has a choice, focus on raising money with ticket warrant roundups, or chasing down those accused of violent crimes. For now, they are focused on violent criminals, but it’s only a matter of time before the city needs more of your money and those ticket warrants become the priority again. And once again after the media attention on family violence is over, government will choose what’s best for it, not for you.