In June, a Dallas man named Daniel Jenkins, 22, pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges. Along with others, he’d targeted gay men for violent crimes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Jenkins and the others used the dating app Grindr to lure gay men to a vacant apartment and other places around Dallas for robberies, car jackings and hate crimes over the course of about a week in 2017. Hate crimes in Texas and across the country have increased substantially since then, according to newly released data from the U.S. Department of Justice, and Dallas is trying to do something about it.
Last week, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson announced the formation of a new advisory council to combat this rise in hate crimes.
“We’re defined now not by our divisions, but by our idealism and our drive to make Dallas better for all of our residents,” Johnson said in a written statement. “But we face some headwinds that threaten to stymie that progress. Because in today’s world, it has become too easy to hate.”
The mayor’s Anti-Hate Advisory Council is made up of 16 members who will work with police and the city on how to combat hate crimes. Members include community, faith and business leaders. The council will meet regularly to talk about ways to increase tolerance in Dallas. It will also work with the police department to find ways to better respond and prevent hate crimes.
Johnson looked at similar groups across the country such as the one in Austin, launched in 2010, said the mayor’s spokesperson, Tristan Hallman. The mayor also decided on the council because he wanted a permanent body rather than a task force.
Two weeks ago, the Department of Justice released new data that shows hate crimes nationwide have increased by 42% since 2014.
Dallas wasn’t spared. In 2020, the Dallas Police Department recorded 38 hate crimes. There were 496 hate crimes in Texas, a substantial increase since 2017, which saw 184. The most targeted groups in 2020 included Black, LGBTQ and Jewish people.
Between 2014 and 2019, more transgender people were killed in the state than any other group, according to the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign. HRC keeps a list of transgender people killed in the U.S., and nearly half of all slayings in Texas deaths happened in Dallas. This includes two Black transgender women: Malaysia Booker and Chynal Lindsey.
Most of the 10,952 incidents involved intimidation. Other offenses included destruction and vandalism of property, simple and aggravated assaults and a number of other crimes.
“Hate has no home here in Dallas,” Gary Sanchez, the board’s chair, said at a press conference last Wednesday. “Regardless of one’s race, appearance, views or identity, everyone deserves to walk the streets of Dallas with a sense of safety and respect.” Sanchez also chairs the North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
“Hate has no home here in Dallas.” – Gary Sanchez, Anti-Hate Advisory Council
In June, a group was spotted hanging a “White Lives Matter” sign on a Dallas overpass and handing out propaganda, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Hate, Extremism, Antisemitism, Terror Map. Additionally, recruiting materials for the Texas white supremacist group Patriot Front periodically pop up around Dallas.
Noting that Dallas saw a 27% increase between 2019 and 2020, Cheryl R. Drazin, the ADL’s central division vice president, said, “the need for a council makes a whole lot of sense.”
But she thinks the increase also indicates that people feel more comfortable reporting hate crime. “We know that hate crimes are tremendously underreported across the country,” she said. “The fact that more agencies, more cities are reporting the incidence going on is really actually tremendously beneficial to the communities they serve.”
Drazin is familiar with the task force in Austin that Johnson looked at as an example for his council.
“They bring diverse voices together to speak out when a hate crime is committed against any community because hate crimes have that unique ability to impact both the victim and the community the victim represents,” Drazin said. “So to be able to offer unified support by a diverse community is really important.”
Drazin said it’s important for these councils and task forces to work with local law enforcement. “ADL, for instance, works with law enforcement all the time on how to identify and report hate crimes and identify communal trends,” she said. “So some task forces may bring that subject matter expertise into their community to make sure that their law enforcement teams have the best information.”
Members of Dallas’ new council hope they can make a change. “We need to work diligently to educate and eliminate hate and hate crimes here in our city,” Sammie Berry, co-chair of the council, said Wednesday. “This advisory council gives us an excellent forum to work with Mayor Johnson on these critical issues and on building a better Dallas.”