What you need to know about the Crime Control and Prevention District
Fort Worth’s Crime Control and Prevention District was re-established in 2020, during a time of national upheaval regarding policing. The district is considering funding for its 2022 fiscal year, which begins in September.
Next budget meeting
Citizens can attend the next Crime Control and Prevention District meeting to comment on the next fiscal budget during the public comments section.
When: August 17, 2021, at 3 p.m.
Where: City Council Conference Room, Second Floor, Room 2020
In its mission to educate the community and hold policymakers accountable, the Fort Worth Report provides this primer on the special tax, how it was created and its efficacy.
What is the Crime Control and Prevention District?
The Crime Control and Prevention District is a special purpose tax district created by Texas Code 363 for Texas tax law purposes. The district funds crime prevention and intervention programs for local, registered non-profits.
The Fort Worth Police Department administers the police tax funds. Its Board of Directors, comprised of City Council members, manages the budget, policies, expenditures and evaluates programs.
District-funded programs must address at least one of these goals, according to the police department’s website: Reduce violent crime and gang-related activity, increase resident safety and youth safety, and reduce juvenile crime through prevention and intervention programs.
“I really love putting whatever efforts we can to prevent people from ever becoming a part of the criminal justice system, to begin with,” Police Chief Neil Noakes said.
Why was the Crime Control and Prevention District created?
The district was created in response to a rise in violent crime in the 1980s and 90s. The FBI’s crime data reporter shows Fort Worth’s violent crime at an all-time high with 9,392 reported crimes in 1992. Fort Worth had the highest crime rate in the U.S. for two years, according to the department’s site.
Noakes said the crime rates at the time are similar to the increase in violent crime right now. However, the most recent data from the crime data reporter shows reported violent crimes in 2019 at a little over half of what they were at their peak in the 90s.
“Just now as back then, it was a national trend that was happening for Fort Worth,” Noakes said. “It was something really significant that we hadn’t seen before — specifically violent crime.”
Citizens voted for the creation of the tax in 1995. Voters continued the district for five-year periods in 2000, 2005, 2009 and 2014. In 2020, voters continued the district for a 10-year period.
“If we’re talking about five years, it may seem like a long time to people,” Noakes said. “But when you’re trying to enact long-term, positive systemic change, it takes time to invest in different programs and initiatives. This 10-year period gives us a chance to invest more long-term.”
Noakes hopes voters continue to re-establish the district every 10 years instead of five, he said.
Has the Crime Control and Prevention District? reduced violent crime?
From its creation in 1995 to 2019, violent crime in Fort Worth has decreased 63%, departing Assistant Police Director Christianne Simmons said.
Reported violent crime had already seen a 57% decrease from the peak in 1992 to 1995 when the district was established. Despite crime already decreasing by the time the district was created, Noakes said he believes the city didn’t want to just sit back and assume it would keep falling.
“I believe it was being more proactive, being more preventative in nature, instead of just hoping the trend continued,” Noakes said. “The city of Fort Worth and residents stepped up to be part of the change. We want to make sure that this change is sustainable and accelerate that change as much as we can.”
Noakes said though there are other factors that contribute to the violent crime decrease, he believes the police district played a large role in sustaining the decline.
While reported violent crime has decreased, there has been a consistent gap between reported and cleared crime. At violent crime’s peak in 1992, 46% of violent crimes were cleared. When violent crime was at its lowest in 2003, 26% of violent crimes were cleared. Crimes are not necessarily cleared in the year they occurred.
In the reporter’s most recent year, 2019, 39% of violent crimes were cleared.
“I think you’ll find we’re actually doing quite well,” Noakes said. “Our clearance rates are actually great if you compare our clearance rates in various crimes to other large agencies and municipalities.”
How does the Crime Control and Prevention District’s funding work?
Revenue for the district is collected from a half-cent sales tax that provides resources to “effectively implement crime reduction strategies,” according to the CCPD webpage.
The district’s adopted budget for the current fiscal year is $86.6 million. The police department’s current fiscal budget is $272 million.
The district’s budget is dedicated to funding programs that contribute specifically to prevention and intervention. While the general department’s funding goes toward employee salaries, general operation and maintenance, licensing and permits and other categories listed on page 151 of the city’s general fund budget.
A PDF of all the district programs and how the money is allocated to them for this year and previous years are available on the district’s funding webpage.
The budget for the previous fiscal year was roughly $85 million and $84 million for the year before that.
“Because it’s funded by sales tax, what that means is as the city of Fort Worth’s sales tax revenue grows,” the district’s budget can grow, Simmons said. “So we are typically seeing sales tax growth since I’ve been here.”
When deciding how to allocate funds, Noakes said, the district listens to community concerns and considers the well-being of the police department’s employees.
“We’re looking at the needs long-range within the community,” Noakes said. “Right now, we’re looking to drop down our homicide numbers and our aggravated assault numbers. We also make sure we’re investing in those grassroots organizations that are doing things from the ground level to empower the community.”
Why don’t citizens head the Crime Control and Prevention District anymore?
The statutes governing the district allow for a Board of Directors comprised of either citizens or the City Council. Fort Worth’s started as a citizen-run board.
At a Feb. 23, 2010 City Council meeting, the council voted unanimously to change the composition of the district. Noakes provided the following explanation for the change:
Before Jan. 1, 2010, residential use of natural gas and electricity was exempt from most local sales and use taxes, including the police district tax.
A new provision of state law (Tex. Tax Code s. 321.1055) went into effect Jan. 1, granting police district boards the authority to impose the district’s sales and use tax on residential use of gas and electricity.
“Leading up to the most recent continuation election (in 2010), we’ve found that the majority of cities were using the council member models,” Simmons said.
Noakes provided the Fort Worth Report with a quote from then-Councilmember Frank Moss regarding the decision.
“It was the position of the council that the decision to tax was something that the elected officials should have control over… ,” Moss said.
What is the Crime Control and Prevention District doing to address the increasing violent crime rate?
In 2017, reported violent crime reached its highest since 1992 at 5,381 incidents. Although there was a decrease in 2018 and 2019, Noakes said, the city is seeing increasing violent crime.
To address this, Noakes said, the district is looking to invest more in community-based programs and partners with shared missions. The district is working to address violent crime from different perspectives, he said.
“We’ve actually invested considerably more money in innovative ways of helping community members reach out to people involved in violence and encourage them to get out of that lifestyle, offer them alternatives, mentor these young people to get them on a better path,” Noakes said.
The fact that Fort Worth residents voted to approve the police district for 10 years for the first time during a national movement to defund the police, “speaks volumes,” Noakes said.
“That is not lost on us at all, and we understand we have to be good stewards of that money,” Noakes said. “I don’t believe (defunding the police) is the way to go. We need to do more to empower the community, invest in the community. Let the community be developed from within, but we also need the police to be a part of it.”
Brooke Colombo is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by grants from the Amon G. Carter and Sid W. Richardson foundations. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter.