Category Archives: News

“Tea with the Sheriff” discusses Dallas County Sheriff Department programs

Officer Paul Lehmann with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department discussed how his department is helping to “Build a Better World” during “Tea with the Sheriff,” hosted at the East Irving Library on Thursday, July 27.

During the presentation, Lehmann first went over services the Sheriff’s Department is required by law to provide. These services include keeping the Dallas County Jail, serving warrants and subpoenas, coordinating extradition of prisoners, and providing bailiffs for county and city courts. While these services are necessary for any Sheriff’s Department, Lehmann wants to focus on the programs that are not required by law but were created by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department to help the community.

“If a judge tells you to go to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), people go to AA because they’re told to and they want to get out,” Lehmann said. “Even though we offer AA, for all the good it does, that’s been left out of the kind of things I put in to the ‘Build a Better World’ (program). These are the things that the Sheriff’s Department is trying to do, on its own, to ease the workload and ease problems we’re finding in the community.”

One of those problem-solving services is the homeless diversion program, which is designed to help homeless and/or mentally impaired individuals stay out of jail and get into programs that can help them.

“If you are mentally ill or homeless and picked up on the kinds of charges that mentally ill and homeless people tend to get picked up on, which is shoplifting, trespassing, things like that, there is a program in place now to identify you and will divert you over to a judge who will let you out of jail without bond, on the condition you go to drug counseling or you go to mental health services,” Lehmann said. A similar program was also created to assist prostitutes, offering to let them go free if they agree to seek help for whatever initially drove them to prostitution.

Lehmann discussed many other services the department provides, from education and vocational training for inmates, to roadside assistance with the Courtesy Patrol, to community outreach with programs such as Citizens’ Academy, Homes for Hounds and Kids and Cops. Many of these services came about as a result of officers observing problems in the community and deciding to do something about them. 

“One of the things about working in law enforcement that I will say is probably a benefit – you don’t have to complain,” Lehmann said. “If you get involved in this line of work, a lot of times you can actually do something about the things you’re complaining about.”

Rose Mary Cortez, branch manager of the East Irving Library, organized the event as part of the library’s “Build a Better World” summer reading program. She said after hearing about the many programs the Sheriff’s Department provides, she wanted to let the public know about them.

“I had heard about the different programs [the Sheriff’s Department] offers our community, and so many of them we are not aware of as just general citizens,” Cortez said. “This was a good opportunity for us to let everybody else know what a wonderful job they’re doing to build a better world in our community.”

Cortez feels events like this are important to help improve the public’s perception of law enforcement as a whole.

“I think if more people knew about [these programs], it would really help our community to make a better contact with them and to understand they’re not just sitting in an office or giving out tickets,” she said. “They’re really helping our community.”

Judith Osegueda, a clerk at Cedar Valley College and a criminal justice student, was very impressed by all the different services the Sheriff’s Department offers.

“I didn’t realize how much the Sheriff’s Department did for taxpayers,” Osegueda said. She would like to see more law enforcement outreach to the Hispanic community as well as the public at large. “I feel that my people are not well informed, even me. I used to be intimidated by sheriffs because they have a reputation of being mean. It’s really good to have the first-hand information and know that they’re not here just to pull me over, give me a ticket, and put me in jail.”

Set the Date!

Free Genealogy Classes
August 4 – 18, 12:30 p.m.
Free genealogy classes are available to the public provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, who has created the largest collection of family records in the world. A three part course will be offered at The Summit Active Adult Center in Grand Prairie. Topics that will be covered include Genealogy for Beginners, Sources for Genealogical Information and Search Techniques for Genealogical Information. Instructors for the course are Elder and Sister Grieve, missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‐day Saints. Classes will be Fridays at 12:30 pm. The class is free for all Summit members. Nonmembers may be charged a $5 entrance fee by The Summit. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints collection of family records includes more than 3 billion deceased people and has 5,003 family history centers in 138 countries.

Summer School Graduation
August 10, 7 p.m.
Summer school graduation for all high schools is Singley Academy.

August 12, 10:30am-4:30pm
The Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra will be holding auditions for the Lone Star Youth Orchestra’s 2017-2018 Season at the Irving Arts Center.

Based in Irving, the Lone Star Youth Orchestra is the only tuition-free youth orchestra in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Lone Star Youth Orchestra is open to all middle and high school students residing in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. These talented youths are given the opportunity to supplement and enhance their music education by learning symphonic literature through high-quality orchestral and ensemble training with the very best in the field. Students have the opportunity to perform with the Garland Symphony Orchestra and the Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra through our side-by-side concerts, and students may also compete for scholarship opportunities and guest artist spots through our annual concerto competition.

Auditions are by appointment only. All audition information can be found at Students can expect to perform two scales, a solo of their choice, and 2-3 excerpts that have been preselected for their instrument.

Apollo 13 recounts NASA’s “successful failure”

“Fred, no more jokes,” were Captain’s James Lovell’s first words to his Lunar Module Pilot, Fred Haise, after hearing an explosion while aboard Apollo 13.

For the weeks leading up to the flight, Haise had been firing a repress valve to get a scare out of Captain Lovell and Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert. Firing the valve during training created a loud bang sound and always got a laugh from Haise.

“Suddenly on the flight, I hear the same thing,” Captain Lovell said. “When I looked up, [Fred’s] eyes were real wide, and I could tell from his expression that he had no idea what was going on.”

The Apollo 13 craft launched on April 11, 1970 on its journey to the Moon, but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days after takeoff.

Nearly 50 years later, Captain Lovell and Haise recounted the mission that has since been classified as a “successful failure” at the Frontiers of Flight Museum’s Exploration Space 2017 Gala, where both astronauts were presented the George E. Haddaway Award.

Presented each year by the Frontiers of Flight Museum, the award honors individuals who have distinguished themselves by their accomplishments in the realm of flight and can include pilots, aircrew members, corporate or political leaders, engineers, educators, or writers.

“I’m glad that Fred and I received this together, because Apollo 13 was a team effort, not any individual but a team effort to make sure we got that spacecraft back in one piece,” Lovell said.

Haddaway was involved in the north Texas aviation scene in the 1930s through the mid-70s as a pilot and aviation journalist, publishing the aviation magazine “Southwest Aviation”.

Past winners of the award include General James “Jimmy” Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and Wiley Post.

Mark Davis, host of 660AM’s The Answer, moderated a discussion between Lovell and Haise following the awards ceremony, where both astronauts spoke about their experience on the mission.


Ken Mattingly was originally intended to be the Command Module Pilot on the flight, but only three days before launch at the insistence of the flight surgeon, John “Jack” Swigert was moved to the main crew.

“Jack helped develop some of the malfunction procedures for the command module,” Lovell said. “If we wanted someone else on board, he was the guy to have.”

Several days into their mission, however, Jack recorded the first incident on Apollo 13.

“Jack suddenly looked at us and said, ‘You know, I didn’t file my income taxes. I’m in deep trouble,’” Lovell said. “He told mission control and finally they called back and said, ‘Well we talked to the President and he said since you’re out of the country, we’ll give you a pass.’”

Not long afterwards, the crew heard a loud bang.

“It kind of echoed, because we were sitting in metal hulls,” Haise said. “It sounded like somebody hitting a sledgehammer on the side of a big tin can you’re in.”

That explosion crippled the Service Module and led to uncharted territory for NASA, which for the first few minutes after the explosion was not certain what was happening.

“The first thing that mission control thought about was all this could not happen at one time, because we build things with redundancy,” Lovell said. “The original thought was it’s gotta be a communications problem. The information coming down from the spacecraft was really caused by a solar flare. Of course in the spacecraft, we knew what was going on. It took a little while for the ground to finally realize this is not just a communications problem, it’s a real one.”

The crew then had to rely on the lunar module, a device meant only to operate for two days. The crew, however, was at least four days away from getting back to earth. Captain Lovell asked Haise to do a consumable check, a checklist of everything they had remaining on the ship.

“I felt we were really in good shape excepting I forgot about the lithium cartridges,” Haise said. “They are the things that cleanse the air of carbon dioxide, which builds up as you’re breathing out. In a submarine, you have to figure out a way to scrub it. I didn’t think about it but we didn’t have enough of those cartridges.”

NASA engineers on the ground had to quickly solve the problem and relay instructions.

“They actually tested that with human subjects in a chamber before it got shipped up to us,” Haise said.


Upon reentry into earth’s atmosphere, the crew was concerned their heat shield was damaged. If the heat shield didn’t function properly, the hull would burn up.

“There was nothing we could do if the heat shield was damaged,” Lovell said. “All of the other questions we’d gone over one by one, but the damaged heat shield, there was nothing that we could do. We just prepared to come in.”

For roughly three minutes entering the atmosphere, a ball of fire surrounded the hull and kept a signal from going out from the capsule and Houston’s signal from coming in.

“Jack and Fred and I looked at each other and said ‘Don’t call [Houston] because this might make a good movie,’” Lovell said.

The craft was recovered by the USS Iwo Jima six days after launch. Lovell says that although the flight was a failure, it could not have happened at a better time. 

“If you recall from Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, success looked so easy,” Lovell said. “The news was getting to be stale. The launch of Apollo 13 was registered on the weather page of the New York Times, because people weren’t interested anymore. Then suddenly, there was a resurgence of interest in space flight.”


In recent decades the trend among space exploration has turned toward international cooperation. The International Space Station (ISS) launched its first component into orbit in 1998. The station is a joint project among five space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (European Space Agency), and CSA (Canada). Ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements. The American portion of the ISS is funded until 2024.

“It’s worked out pretty good from a management standpoint,” Haise said. “I hope people will now get more of a picture of not the U.S. Space Program but the Earth Space Program, to have that unity and that funding support from a multitude of countries, to really make it happen. Right now without a drastic change in what this country’s willing to fund, it’s not going to get there very fast.”

NASA was established in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, the percentage of the federal budget allocated toward NASA has been steadily falling since the 1966 Apollo program, when the U.S. saw the federal budget briefly fund the program at 4.41 percent. Now the number sits at just under 0.5 percent.

“NASA’s hopefully going to get back into the exploration business and continue to build things that can move us further out,” Haise said. “Right now underway they have a capsule, a little bit bigger than the Apollo capsule that can carry a few more people, and they’re building a big booster. They can go out to the moon, but they really don’t have all of the ingredients to land on the moon or certainly not to go to Mars at this point.”

“It takes a lot of money, and it actually has to be a national policy and a national priority to do something like Buzz preaches to go to Mars or if you went back to the moon even and set up a base,” Lovell said, who believes we have barely scratched the surface of the moon.

“We should direct our technology for going back up to the moon, learning more about it and developing the infrastructure to be very comfortable about doing regular flights back and forth without really having the risks we fought when we did it on Apollo. We then take that and build it up to eventually go to Mars.

“We know more about Mars today than Neil Armstrong knew about the moon when he landed on it,” he said. “Mars is there, and someday, somebody is going to go there. It’s like the highest mountain to climb, somebody is going to do it, and it might as well be the United States.”

Electronics store catches fire in Irving Mall


Firefighters were dispatched on Monday evening, July 24, to a two-alarm fire at Irving Mall.

The alert initially came into the Irving Fire Department (IFD) at 9:17 p.m. as a smoke investigation. As soon as firefighters arrived to the mall, located at North Belt Line Road and State Highway 183, they noticed thick clouds of smoke and called for a larger response.

The smoke originated in an Xspress Electronics storage room. Firefighters initially had a difficult time locating the fire because of reduced visibility caused by smoke.

“If we see a lot of fire, in a sense it’s easy,” said Jack Taylor, Assistant Chief of Operations for the Irving Fire Department. “We know right where to go, we know how to attack it, it’s visible, and you know what you’re working with. The more difficult ones are the ones where you have a lot of smoke. If you have a lot of smoke and it’s really charged and thick, you can’t see your hand in front of your face. There’s a seat of the fire somewhere, so it’s very anxious trying to find where that is before it advances and gets out of control.”

According to Taylor, in smoke heavy situations where it is hard to see flames, firefighters feel around for heat to know if they are heading in the right direction. At the Irving Mall, however, firefighters did not register a change in temperature and felt the entire room was warm.

“The sprinklers that had gone off actually kept the smoke there and didn’t let it dissipate,” Taylor said. “It stayed there like a cloud and made it a take longer to find where the fire had started. By the time we got there, it was a relatively small fire. The sprinklers did a really good job and kept it at bay.”

A second alarm was activated to have fire staff on hand help evacuate the mall, which included mostly store employees and AMC theater patrons. According to Taylor, the second alarm was more of a precautionary measure because of the size of the mall, the number of employees and customers still inside, and the poor visibility caused by the thick smoke.

IFD has a set amount of equipment they send on an initial structure fire for a first alarm. Depending on the structure or how big the fire is, the commander on the scene will call for a second alarm, which brings double the equipment and manpower. Four alarms is the biggest call that can be made in Irving.

Should IFD ever run out of resources to battle a fire, they can call on neighboring cities for support. Mutual aid agreements with other Dallas County fire departments allows neighboring cities to assist one another when large or multiple emergencies exceed a city’s capacity. The cities share a master list of all of the equipment each department has available.

At Monday’s Irving Mall fire, the DFW Airport and Dallas Fire-Rescue were called to bring truck-mounted ventilation fans. These big fans push a high volume of air to help clear smoke from large structures.

The fire was officially under control at 10:20 p.m. and no injuries were reported. In total, 18 pieces of equipment were used from IFD, two from DFW Airport, and one from Dallas Fire-Rescue. The fire was contained to the storage room, and investigators are still determining the cause.

According to Taylor, a number of 911 calls were made early enough into the incident that helped minimize damage. His team regularly sees people stopping to take a picture or film an incident rather than calling 911, and recalled an extreme situation at an apartment complex fire in Irving a few months ago.

“A lot of people there expected everybody else was calling it in,” he said. “Nobody did, and the fire was very advanced before we were ever called. We always try to push the urgency, to let people know to call 911 first, and then film it if you want to.

“In this day of social media, people are quick to pick up their phones and start filming something and not think about calling 911. I’m always reminding people to make sure 911 is called first. Several people did call in [about Irving Mall] so that’s always a good sign.”

District Attorney brings services to victims


Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer and Cedar Hill Mayor Rob Franke joined other city and police officials in standing beside Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson as she announced the Irving Family Advocacy Center and Genesis Women’s Shelter now house the District Attorney’s Office’s newest Community Satellite Offices. The Irving office is the first Community Satellite Office established in an advocacy center.

The satellite offices focus primarily on crimes such as family violence, sexual assault and child abuse. Personnel working in the offices will provide victims of domestic violence greater access to applications for protective orders while making the crime reporting, investigation and prosecution processes as efficient, successful and comfortable for the victims as possible.

“We are taking the office to them rather than people having to come down to the Frank Crowley Courts Building,” Johnson said. “People can actually get there protective orders right here in the community.

“We already had 11 locations in the city of Dallas, but Irving wanted us to come out here, and Cedar Hill wanted us to go there, so we said, ‘yes’. We are trying to take the office to the people, so that the people won’t have to worry about coming to Dallas County.

“We want to encourage people to take advantage of these services, because we have them in mind. We need to know that these services are needed, and they do appreciate being able to come right here in their community to be served, but if it doesn’t make that much of a difference we need to know that too. We are spending our DA time and our advocates’ time and effort, so we want them to come,” she said.

Mayor Pro Tem Alan Meagher believes the inviting atmosphere of the Family Advocacy Center will support people seeking justice.

“A lot of people are scared to go downtown,” Meagher said. “They might not have the money for the parking and everything. It’s intimidating to go downtown to the courthouse.

“If you come here, this is an inviting place. It is a safe place. People will come here and get the process done, where they wouldn’t before. I think people will be more comfortable coming here to Irving. It helps out our city a great deal. Any resident of our city can come here and get what they need taken care of by the District Attorney’s Office and not have to go to downtown Dallas.

“The Family Advocacy Center does an unbelievable job. If you are ever a victim of any family violence, you can come here and you will be safe. They will take care of you. A lot of people feel they can’t leave an unsafe environment, because there is no place to go, or no one will help them; the Family Advocacy Center does help them. It gives victims of domestic abuse a place where they can get away from their abusive situation,” he said.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, or you simply someone to speak with, contact the Irving Family Advocacy Center, located at 600 W Pioneer Drive, Irving, or call 972-721-6521.

DCCCD receives green light for first bachelor’s degree

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 2118 into law on Monday, June 12, which now allows the Dallas County Community College District to offer a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, its first four-year degree.

State Sen. Royce West and Rep. Helen Giddings filed bills to address the shortage of early childhood teachers in the North Texas area. Ultimately, language from their bills was added to SB 2118 by Sen. Kel Seliger. This legislation will provide a solution to the shortage of more than 4,000 early childhood education teachers in Dallas County.

“Students in our area now can choose a quality, affordable bachelor’s degree in early childhood education,” Dr. Joe May, DCCCD’s chancellor said. “It also supports the governor’s goal to provide quality pre-kindergarten for our youngest Texans, and it comes at no additional fiscal cost for the state.

“We are excited to offer this choice and also to solve a shortage that has limited the number of youngsters who were allowed access to pre-K programs in Dallas County because there weren’t enough teachers.”

The bill also allows several other community colleges in the state to offer a baccalaureate degree in applied science, applied technology or nursing.

DCCCD now will work with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to establish an education pathway for early childhood education in the district. DCCCD colleges already have child development programs in place and can offer the new bachelor’s degree once the specific curriculum and requirements are established and have been approved by the THECB.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools also will be involved in the accreditation process for the new degree, including faculty credentials, expanded library offerings and other criteria.

The entire process will approximately three to four years.

SOURCE Dallas County Community College District

Tiller trucks latest advancement for Irving Fire Department


The Irving Fire Department is adding two new tractor drawn, aerial trucks, most commonly known as Tiller trucks, to its firefighting arsenal. Irving is the second city in Texas using these trucks, Dallas being the first.

Tiller trucks are designed to better maneuver around congested areas and narrow streets around town. Driving a Tiller truck is a two-man job.

“The vehicle has been in the fire service for a very long time, but it’s a relatively new concept in the South,” Assistant Fire Chief Tony Harvey said.

The Irving Fire Department began doing research on the Tiller trucks in late 2014.

“With some of the construction and stuff going on in the city, it has started becoming denser and more populated in tighter spaces,” Station 12 Captain Darrell Hall said. “We realized we have places that some of our equipment has trouble getting into.”

A committee approached the Irving City Council to propose the purchase of the trucks. Committee members even took a trip to the West Coast in July of 2015 to observe Tiller trucks in action.

“We set up a trip to California,” Hall said. “California has a lot of departments that have Tillers, because they’ve been tight quarters for a long time. They showed us their trucks, let us drive their trucks, and showed us what they were capable of doing. Even more important for us, it told us what you should do and what you should not do.”

The committee studied the concept for two years before presenting the idea to the council.

“We made the presentation and the council approved it,” Harvey said. “They actually approved two of these Tiller trucks, so we’re really excited about getting them in service.”

One of the trucks will be going to Station Three to cover the southern part of Irving, and the other will be going to Station 12, which is slated to open in July, to cover the northern part of town. All the personnel assigned to the two stations have received over 40 hours of Tiller training to learn how to operate the front end and the back end of the trucks while maintaining constant communication with one another through wireless headsets.

“The Tiller truck has a standard driver and in the back is the trailer, which also has a steering wheel. That driver is called the Tiller man,” Hall said. “He can steer the back of the truck so we are able to maneuver around some pretty tight areas. We want each guy to be crossed trained in both locations, so no matter what situation comes up, we can get the job done and get it done safely.”

Crew members trained on courses designed to simulate different street layouts and hard to reach areas.

“There’s four different scenarios we have to drive through,” fire equipment operator Steven Hall said. “A lot of this is stuff we’ve done before but on straight axle equipment, so whenever you get to do this on a Tiller rig, it’s a totally different game. We’ve spent several hours getting used to that before we actually start driving on the road with the public.”

The new trucks also give firefighters more space to store equipment.

“We’ve got so much compartment space that we have not had in the past,” Darrell said. “The trucks are set up for firefighting and rescue operations. Every piece of equipment has a place now. It’s wonderful to be able to have so much space that even as the department needs to change we can put more equipment on the truck, which we haven’t had the ability to do in the past.”

The trucks are scheduled to go into operation in July once Station 12 opens. There is the possibility more than two Tiller trucks could be protecting Irving in the future.

“Our personnel who’ve been training on them ask questions like, ‘How come we didn’t do this 20 years ago?’” Harvey said. “Maybe when another station comes up for a ladder truck replacement, it could be a consideration.”

Joint Fire Training Facility promises improved firefighter, policemen training

The City of Irving and the Grand Prairie Fire Departments came together to host the grand opening of their joint Fire Training Facility, located at 4850 N. Belt Line Road, on Friday, July 21.

The new $4 million facility features a five-story burn tower composed of apartments, commercial offices, and a balcony. The burn tower also includes an elevator shaft, rappel panel and training access hatches. The facility will train incoming and current firefighters on various techniques involved in fire safety and rescue.

The Fire Training Facility also has a 4,000-square-foot building, which contains classrooms, kitchens and a break room for the firefighters.

“I want to thank the city council and the city manager for supporting this,” said Irving Fire Chief, Victor Conley. “We haven’t had a facility to train at since 1968.

“This facility is going to help our first responders to be better prepared to respond to emergencies where there is a lot of muscle memory that kicks in, because they go through the training on a regular basis. It’s going to help our community and our fire department be better.

“By the addition of this facility, the fire department was able to help the city of Irving achieve an ISO-1 insurance rating. It will reduce insurance rates, have a huge impact on economic development, and bring more corporate partners to our city while keeping taxes low for our citizens.”

“We bought this land years ago, and there is a whole master site to develop this property,” Conley said. “This is just the first component. There will be classrooms, and an emergency operation center. We plan to have a rifle and gun range for our police department.”

Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer feels cooperation was a key component in the creation of the joint Fire Training Facility.

“It’s a great day for the city of Irving and the city of Grand Prairie,” Stopfer said. “To the community, it shows the spirit of cooperation we have between our two cities. I think regionalism is important, because it shows the responsibilities of both cities working together to bring one city together, so we can share those costs and be mindful of the citizens’ dollars.

“For the future, it shows we’re committed to having the facility and the tools our firefighters need for our future growth and development for the city. As we grow it’s becoming more and more evident that the firefighters have to be well trained.”

Mark your calendar!

Blood Donation
July 30, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Thousands of people have responded to the emergency call for blood donations issued by the American Red Cross in early July, but there continues to be a critical summer blood shortage. Eligible donors of all types are urgently needed.

After issuing the emergency call, the Red Cross has experienced a 30 percent increase in blood donation appointments through mid-July. Despite this improvement, blood products are still being distributed to hospitals as fast as donations are coming in, so more donations are needed to meet patient needs and replenish the blood supply.

A blood donation drive will be held at Holy Family of Nazareth Catholic Parish, 2323 Cheyenne Street, Irving.

Free Genealogy Classes
August 4 – 18, 12:30 p.m. 

Free genealogy classes are available to the public provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, who has created the largest collection of family records in the world. A three part course will be offered at The Summit Active Adult Center in Grand Prairie.

Topics that will be covered include Genealogy for Beginners, Sources for Genealogical Information and Search Techniques for Genealogical Information. Instructors for the course are Elder and Sister Grieve, missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‐day Saints.

Classes will be Fridays at 12:30 pm. The class is free for all Summit members. Nonmembers may be charged a $5 entrance fee by The Summit.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints collection of family records includes more than 3 billion deceased people and has 5,003 family history centers in 138 countries.



Banks want to start making payday loans again

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) Policy Analysis, “Been There; Done That,” warns that banks are seeking the repeal of consumer protections established in 2013 that ensured that banks could no longer keep borrowers trapped in unaffordable payday loans. 

Six banks—Wells Fargo, US Bank, Regions Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Bank of Oklahoma and Guaranty Bank—were making predatory payday loans to their own account holders until 2013, when a public outcry and risks to the banks’ safety and soundness led bank regulators to establish commonsense guidelines to curb these unaffordable loans. The banks were siphoning $500 million annually from customers who were caught in a devastating debt trap structured just like storefront payday lending.

Now, as Congress invites a tempest of deregulation that would open the floodgates to predatory lending, the American Bankers Association is urging regulators to block and repeal protections against these dangerous loans.

“The banking industry is taking advantage of an environment in Washington where consumer protections are under siege,” Rebecca Borné, CRL Senior Policy Counsel and author of the report, said. “While payday lending has been effectively banned in 15 states plus the District of Columbia, payday lenders are still operating elsewhere and siphoning $8 billion per year in abusive fees from low-income communities. The banks want a piece of that action, to charge their own customers rates of 200 and 300 percent APR in order to strip away millions of dollars a year from fees on intentionally unaffordable loans.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is also the target of anti-consumer initiatives, including a proposal to eliminate its authority to regulate payday and car-title lending at all. The CFPB is in the process of finalizing a commonsense rule addressing these abusive 300 percent interest loans.

Like storefront payday lenders, the six banks making payday loans marketed them as an occasional bridge to the next payday, not meant for long-term use. But in 2011, CRL documented that the median bank payday borrower had 13.5 loans per year and was in debt at least part of six months annually. And in 2013, the CFPB found that borrowers spent an average of 114 days during the year in triple-digit debt. And CRL also found that more than half of borrowers had more than ten loans annually, and 12 percent had more than 30 loans annually.

The extreme harm payday loans cause borrowers has motivated communities, advocates, and state policymakers to address the practice. Data has shown that payday loans result in increases in difficulty paying living expenses, delinquency on credit card and other debt, delayed medical care, overdraft fees, loss of checking accounts and bankruptcy.

In their 2013 guidance, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency advised the banks they oversee that they must assess the ability of their customers to repay the loans without getting into deeper financial trouble. Instead, the banks got out of the business.

CRL recommends that the regulators keep the guidance in place and that the CFPB finalize a strong rule protecting consumers from debt trap loans. The policy analysis includes a range of other recommendations to stop both predatory storefront and online lending and the threat of bank payday lending.

SOURCE Center for Responsible Lending