All's quiet on the midway right now. Two months from now, Fair Park will be a busy place amid the hustle and bustle of the State Fair of Texas.
More than 200 Dallas officers will be working to keep it safe for the 24 days of the fair.
No doubt everyone wants the State Fair of Texas to be a safe event, but it raises the question what does it mean for crime fighting and police response times for the rest of the city.
By the time the fair starts, the city will have almost 400 fewer cops. Violent crime is on the rise. Response times remain stubbornly high.
Sgt. Mike Mata of the Dallas Police Association worries that shifting resources will further harm the department’s crime-fighting efforts.
“I'm very concerned. Obviously, we love the fair. The City of Dallas loves the fair,” Mata says. “The point of the matter is that we don't have enough cops.”
For years, the department shifted hundreds of on-duty resources to work inside and outside of the state fair.
This year will be different. There will still be a lot of on on-duty officers assigned to the fair, but not nearly as many.
Interim Police Chief David Pughes says he has ordered the percentage of on-duty officers assigned to the fair be reduced in direct correlation to the drop in the department’s manpower.
To fill in the gaps, the state fair will be paying off-duty officers.
“We're going to put on another great state fair, and it's going to be just as safe,” says Assistant Chief Gary Tittle.
Tittle says the department will monitor crime numbers and response times throughout the fair and will make adjustments as needed.
Mata also worries that having so many officers working overtime for the fair will further deplete a weary department.
“Mistakes happen because people are tired,” Mata says.
Last year, members of the council’s Public Safety Committee raised concerns about whether the state fair was draining too much of the department’s resources and whether the department should be handling fair security.
Questions were also raised about how much the state fair reimburses the city for the use of police manpower.
The fair paid about $550,000 to cover the costs of police personnel. However, what the fair paid was far less it costs for the department to staff the fair.
According to an email obtained by WFAA, the department’s personnel cost for last year’s fair was an estimated $1.53 million in straight time and $1.03 million for overtime. The total tab was estimated to be $2.84 million.
“In the past, they’ve been given free officers and that has to stop,” says Council member Philip Kingston.
Pughes told WFAA that the fair will pay far more than it did in years past. Those dollar figures were not yet available because the details of the contract are still being worked out.
Karissa Condoianis, a state fair spokeswoman, said the state fair is prepared to pay whatever the department asks them to pay.