The Dallas Police Department’s mission statement is “to reduce crime and provide a safe city,”, but innumerable local ordinances often overcriminalize the city’s own residents. Recently, Dallas resident Sandra McFeeley was arrested and charged with a felony for pruning overgrown foliage in the community park.

Undoubtedly, McFeeley violated local ordinances of the Dallas City Code, as the law states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to cut, injure, mutilate or destroy any shrub, plant or tree in the city, in or upon property not belonging to such person, without the permission of the owner of the property.” McFeeley faces a possible $10,000 fine and up to two years in jail.

Overcriminalization is nothing new to government officials on a local, state, and national level. According to Time to Rethink What’s a Crime: So Called Crimes are Here, There, and Everywhere, Texas lawmakers have made more than 1,700 criminal offenses that reside outside the traditional crimes written into the Penal Code or local ordinances such as these.

Let’s hope she receives community service rather than a jail sentence. Then she can use her “green thumb” to lend a helping hand to her community once again.

– Brittany WagnerIntern, Center for Effective Justice