DALLAS — Nearly two dozen people have been arrested after a significant, early-morning raid near Fair Park in Dallas.
Investigators said that nearly 400 agents worked the raid, which involved several apartment complexes west and southwest of Fair Park - just down the street from the state fairgrounds - that officials said were connected to gang activity, including drug sales and murders.
Federal authorities said the area where the raid happened is one of the most violent areas in the Metroplex, and Dallas police said the area makes up 10% of all violent crime across the city.
Authorities said they had seen an increase in violence there over the last two years, and many of the guns and ballistics that they had been tracing came from the area. Crime statistics showed that for aggravated assaults:
- There were 315 recorded in 2018
- In 2019, there were 367
- That number jumped to 485 in 2020
As for murders:
- There were 10 recorded in 2018
- In 2019, there were 12
- That number soared to 23 murders in 2020
"Keep in mind this makes up one of 35 sectors in the city," Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said.
So, in 2019, authorities launched an operation that included an FBI taskforce called "Safer Streets," in which investigators concentrated on hot spots of crime. The goal: "To make a significant impact in violent crime in Dallas," according to the FBI.
Officials with several law enforcement agencies - including the FBI Dallas office; the Dallas Police Department; the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Fire - spoke at 2 p.m. to discuss the operation.
In addition to Chief Garcia, FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah, DEA Dallas Special Agent in Charge Eduardo Chávez, and ATF Dallas Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Boshek II were all present during the briefing at the FBI Dallas Headquarters.
Shah said they decided to move in now, because they feared the violence would only get worse in the summer months.
"Dallas is bracing for sure and we watch with alarm as summer will spike in the summer," he said. "But the chaos of the pandemic has made everything even more volatile."
Shah said the inclusion of federal investigators, and federal charges - which often carry steeper penalties than state charges - would act as a possible deterrent.
"The know the difference between state time and federal time, and they do not want to get federal time," Shah explained, saying that the operation today achieved two goals: taking violent criminals off the street and sending a message to would-be-criminals that the Feds are watching.
Chief Garcia added that law enforcement is hopeful what happened today will also help bring down violent crime.
"The message today for the residents is simple: DPD is not alone in keeping community safe, DPD is not alone in weeding out the criminal element and DPD is not along in seeding the community with hope,” he said.
Despite the arrests made Thursday, authorities said they are still looking for dozens of other suspects, including others from across the state.
Contributing: Adrianne M. Haney and Rebecca Lopez