Mesquite Police Chief Charles Cato presented the Mesquite Police Department’s (MPD) quarterly report during the Aug. 3 City Council meeting. The report covered crime statistics for the second quarter of 2020, which showed a decrease in various performance metrics including robbery, burglary and motor vehicle accidents compared to the same quarter as last year.
According to the MPD performance metrics for fiscal year 2020 third quarter, most of the items are trending down but homicide, sexual assault/rape, and aggravated assault are up.
Cato noted that in the past years there have been more stops than citations but that the numbers for this year have been closer.
“During the pandemic we’re trying to limit the number of contacts with citizens that are necessary. They didn’t stop people unless they were doing something really wrong and they were going to write them. That’s why that number so far year-to-date is closer than years past,” he said.
In 2018 there were 28,533 traffic stops and 17,122 citations issued. In 2019 there were 30,818 traffic stops and 17,953 citations issued, and currently for 2020, there have been 13,220 traffic stops and 13,209 citations written.
Cato reported that MPD investigated seven homicides this year; five of those took place within city limits.
The first incident occurred in the 4400 block of N. Galloway Ave. in April. Cato said a man had arranged online to meet with individuals to sell several pounds of marijuana and was shot and killed. Two suspects were charged in the incident.
Another incident involved a teen reported missing from Mesquite in April, and the homicide was found to have occurred in the 1100 block of Lottle Lane in Dallas.
In May at Avis Street and Gillette Drive, Keniesha Coleman, 29, of Terrell was shot and killed. This is still an active investigation.
In June, there was a murder suicide incident in the 1300 block of Bradford Place. Cato said this was an incident where a father killed two daughters and then committed suicide.
In June a wrecker driver was looking to repo vehicles in the 2600 block of John West Road and engaged with two teens who were said to have stolen his phone. The driver confronted them and they shot at him, according to police. He shot back and killed one. This was determined to be a justifiable homicide.
Another incident in June was in regards to a body being found burning on the side of Interstate 20 near Heartland within the city limits. Cato said the investigation led them to Wills Point where the victim had been murdered and the body was dumped in the city and set on fire. A suspect has been arrested in this incident.
Aggravated assault is also up, and Cato said MPD saw an increase during the lockdown in March through May of family violence. The incidents were not limited to intimate partners but included sibling and parent/child altercations as well.
“We’re also seeing an increase in road rage incidents. People are more willing to settle disputes or engage in disputes and pull out a firearm,” he said. “So that’s concerning (as to) why people are so willing to brandish a gun because somebody cut them off or pulled in front of them or slowed down/break check them or whatever the case may be. That’s something we saw last summer as well.”
Cato noted that they’ve seen an increase in firearm incidents and have had a couple of road rage incidents in the city that resulted in shootings within the last few months.
According to the presentation, theft is the category that greatly contributes to the overall crime numbers. There are eight categories in thefts, and one of the two categories that drive the number in thefts is shoplifting.
“Shoplifts is always a significant portion of our overall theft reports. This goes into our crime numbers; when you look at real estate websites, etc. that talks about overall crime in the city,” Cato said. “We have a very vibrant retail district, so we also have several retailers … that have (a) very robust loss prevention systems, so the better they are at their job of catching people who steal from them, the higher these numbers are going to be over time. It is a crime and it is a determent to the community in that those businesses pass on those losses to the consumer who go in there and purchase from them.”
Cato said a large portion of those thefts are stealing from businesses and not individuals. Those numbers dropped in April and May when those retailers were shutdown.
“We still arrest and charge everyone who steals, regardless of the amount. The district attorney sends us back cases and refuses to prosecute any case under $750 and what is considered essential items,” he said.
What is deemed essential items are determined individually by the attorney going through each case, Cato explained.
“Our message is if you come to Mesquite and you steal you’re going to get arrested, we’re going to put you in jail,” he said. “We can’t help what happens at the courthouse or at the DA’s office, but we’re going to charge people.”
The second largest category is burglary of a motor vehicle. So far in 2020, about 58 percent of BMVs have been from unlocked vehicles, according to the presentation.
Cato said it would help if people would lock their cars because they are seeing very few smash and grabs and prying of locks.
“We have people we’ve arrested multiple times for burglary of a motor vehicle, it’s a misdemeanor in Dallas County, and they’re not being prosecuted right now,” he said. “With COVID there (are) some people that should be going to jail that aren’t, they’re only taking violent crimes at the county jail.
“We book them, process them and we’re having to let them go because they’re not even going to the county jail because the county refuses to take them for misdemeanors that aren’t violent…” Cato continued. “When there’s no consequence for their behavior, there’s no accountability, we can arrest all we want to (but) unless we do a better job at preventing that opportunity from happening, unfortunately it’s not going to change.”