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Dallas County District Attorney ends controversial policy on misdemeanor thefts

Fresh off his reelection victory, Dallas County DA John Creuzot rescinded a hallmark policy of his first term.

By Krista M. Torralva

John Creuzot
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, photographed during a press conference at Frank Crowley Courts Building on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, has ended his controversial policy against prosecuting misdemeanor-level thefts of essential items.(Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot has tossed his controversial policy against prosecutions of misdemeanor-level thefts of essential items like food and diapers, a hallmark of his first term that drew political scrutiny.

Creuzot, a Democrat who won reelectionin November for a second term, said on the campaign trail he would consider rescinding the policy, citing data that shows such crimes are on the decline. His opponent, Republican Faith Johnson, criticized the policy and vowed to end it if elected. She accused Creuzot’s policy of leading to increased thefts and businesses’ economic struggles, which Creuzot refuted.

Creuzot implemented the policy in 2019, within his first five months in office, and quickly drew ire from Gov. Greg Abbott and police groups.

“I want the people of Dallas County and our partner police agencies to know that I have heard their concerns, and I will change when change is needed,” Creuzot said in a statement that announced the policy’s repeal last week.

The policy did not apply to thefts of expensive items like televisions and catalytic converters, Creuzot said. It only applied to thefts of items that cost between $100 and $750, which is a Class B misdemeanor, unless evidence showed the theft was intended for financial profit rather than a need.

“Through data analysis and conversations with community organizations, retailers, and independent loss prevention specialists, I found the policy had zero effect on crime in the county – positive or negative,” Creuzot said.

Creuzot has said the goal of the policy was to address disparities in arrests and prosecutions for poor people. But the policy was “misrepresented and politicized, and those who have done that have created a sense of mistrust about this office,” Creuzot said.

“I have come to the understanding that this policy is more aspirational than realistic and rather than helping those in need, I have watched that population, and primarily people of color, be blamed for a rise in crime,” Creuzot said.

Instead of a blanket policy, Creuzot said prosecutors will use discretion to decide who to prosecute and will use intervention programs and community resources for people who display a need.

Misdemeanor thefts were down for the fourth straight year in January and Class B misdemeanor thefts specifically were at a six-year low, according to a one-page explainer of his policy published in January. The number of cases law enforcement filed had steadily decreased from 2,428 in 2017, when Johnson was district attorney, to 1,314 in 2021.

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