DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia is making an urgent plea to city council to limit the hours strip clubs and other sexually oriented businesses can be open.
"This is an issue that I need the council's help on. This has people's lives at risk," Garcia told council members at a Public Safety Committee meeting Monday.
Garcia says crime at the businesses is sapping city resources, affecting police response throughout the city. He's asking the city to require licensed sexually oriented businesses to close from 2 am to 6 am.
According to data presented by the police department, that's when 76% of violent crime at the businesses have occurred this year. It's also when police and fire are most likely to get called to respond to them.
"The truth is when you pull resources to attend to that, you're taking them from across the city," said city council member Cara Mendelsohn, who made a motion to send the proposal to the full city council for a vote.
With the committee's approval, the measure is now set to get a vote next month.
In recent years, the police department has struggled to improve response times, as the number of officers on the force has declined.
A few dozen businesses, the chief says, are tying up staff.
"We can't have police officers everywhere to answer to everything," Garcia said.
Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, and Plano already limit the hours of sexually oriented businesses within their city limits, for at least five hours a day.
"We have to be careful with what we're doing," said council member Omar Narvaez.
Shutting the businesses down is not an option and even limiting their hours could lead to legal challenges, warn legal experts.
"A lot of the businesses that are just sexually oriented businesses are actually engaged in fully constitutionally protected speech. And adults at least have the right to access that speech," said SMU law professor and author Dale Carpenter.
He says courts, though, have allowed cities to regulate sexually oriented businesses and create reasonable restrictions on them, but only to the extent it limits secondary effects, like crime.
"Not because it doesn't like the speech, but because it doesn't like the crime associated with the speech," Carpenter explained.
Several times during Monday's meeting Chief Garcia said the proposal has nothing to do with the sexual nature of the business, but with data showing its impact on crime.
"This is a prime example of what we need to further help reduce violent crime in our city" he said.
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