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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Thurs., April 26)

Crime dogs: CBS11 leaves its new scent with Jay Gormley, Jack Fink.

Boy trapped in refrigerator eats own foot.

Or to put it another way, CBS11 officially has gone over to NBC5's dark side. Both stations now are leading their nightly late night newscasts with heaping helpings of quick-hit crime stories. The newscast as assault weapon. No one is safe.

Under new news director Regent Ducas and his "First Five Minutes" gambit, CBS11 began the first night of the May "sweeps" with reporter Jack Fink's urgent live dispatch from Cockrell Hill. A man arrested for brandishing a gun at someone had escaped earlier through a small hole in the jailhouse wall.

Next came a "whoosh" sound effect and a quick segue to latter day fellow crime dog Jay Gormley, who stationed himself in a 7-Eleven parking lot at the corner of Park Lane and Hemlock in North Dallas. Gormley said police had just reacted to a tip on fugitive Fernando Perez's whereabouts.

"We're gonna follow them, see what we can come up with," he promised.

Sure enough, Perez was caught, signaling a return to Fink for a second live report. Then came Gormley a few minutes later -- Whoosh!" -- with video of the man being handcuffed by police outside his brother's apartment. CBS11 billed the video as "exclusive," which in fact it was. But did they have to make it seem as though Osama bin Laden had just been captured?

NBC5 also led its 10 p.m. newscast with this police "manhunt" for an escaped prisoner.

"Chopper 5 is high over Dallas County," intoned anchor Mike Snyder before throwing it to veteran night ranger Scott Gordon. Savvy crime-duster that he is, Gordon got Cockrell Hill police chief Catherine Smit to brand Perez "Houdini." Now that's news you can use.

The Peacock likewise returned live to the scene of the breakout to report that Perez was back in police custody. Belo8 and Fox4 thought little of all this. Both handled the fugitive-from-justice situation with brief anchor reads and no live reporting. Which was the most it deserved, if that, in the populous sixth largest TV market in the country.

CBS11 has undergone a radical change since the February sweeps, when crime stories got short shrift in favor of longer enterprise pieces. That didn't translate into boffo ratings, though, so over and out. Thursday's newscast had 11 crime-related stories, or 13 if you count the double-dipping on fugitive Perez. There were no "packages" a k a enterprise stories prepared in advance on pithier topics.

NBC5 couldn't quite keep up, reeling off eight crime stories -- or nine if you count the double-dip. Snyder tried his best, though, telling viewers at one point, "From one scare situation to another tonight."

That led to reporter Grant Stinchfield's pretty decent piece on a slimy looking courier service operator and registered sex offender who also apparently was an identity thief. But the story got badly soiled by a horror movie soundtrack and dopey camera tricks.

The Peacock always can be counted on for cockamamie health reports. It had two of them Thursday, with anchor Jane McGarry priming the pump for the first by promising an "allergy answer so simple you'll be kicking yourself for not thinking of it first."

Meredith Land later informed viewers that it helps to take antihistamines at the same time every day. You mean that's it? Um, yeah.

Her story proved to be more hard-hitting than Kristi Nelson's dispatch on diet soda "addiction." Two well-known brands got a nice product placement ad during the time Nelson stood live in front of a pair of vending machines.

Slap-happy together: Belo8's Pete Delkus and you-know-who.

Some real news broke out, too, most of it on Fox4 and Belo8.

(Note to readers: We're looking at Fox4's 9 p.m. program instead of the 10 p.m. this time. It's by far the station's most-watched newscast of the day, and gets appreciably more promotional muscle and resources than the 10 p.m.)

Stories of genuine worth get room to breathe on Fox4's 9 p.m. news. And it takes some work to get them ready for air. The station's Shaun Rabb had a particularly interesting piece on a Tarrant County Community College professor who wants to make rap music lyrics easier on the ears.

"The beats are a blessing, the lyrics are a curse," he said. Rabb spent ample time with the young rappers competing in Dr. Murray Fortner's rap contest. As did reporter Jason Overstreet with a jailed textbook thief who wants to make amends.

"I'm kind of surprised I made as much as I did as long as I did," said former athletic scholarship student Alvin Wilson, who stole primarily from the University of North Texas book store.

Fox4's Brandon Todd also had an interesting story on a Texas Transportation Institute study that said teenagers taught to drive by their parents were three times more likely to have accidents than those who took driver safety courses.

All three stories were worth a viewer's investment. And anchor Natalie Solis's piece on a spirited "gospel aerobics" class in Northeast Dallas was a nice respite from all those daily doses of crime and punishment.

On Belo8, reporter Gary Reaves had an eye-opener on how a school's tacked-on trailer home classrooms can be weekend hideaways for drug abusers.

"If you come by on a Saturday, it's like a mini-Mardi Gras back here," said Stephen C. Foster elementary school principal Constance Ramirez.

Belo8's Steve Stoler also had a good piece on McKinney school bus stops located near the homes of registered sex offenders.

The station still trades in skin-deep, self-improvement stories, though. The "Friendly Fat" bit by Macy Jepson focused on two self-absorbed women striving to look younger by having body flab injected into their faces. Viewers were treated to the sight of an oversized needle being stuck in one of the patient's cheeks.

"That's a little much for me," grimaced anchor John McCaa, prompting weatherman Pete Delkus to start another pillow fight with sports anchor Dale Hansen.

"Well, you know, Hansen's a donor 'cause there's an endless supply (of fat) with him," Delkus cracked.

Pecos Pete later brandished a red-and-white striped soccer jersey he'd received for being a coin-flipper at that night's FC Dallas game. They didn't have one big enough for Hansen, he added.

"If fat in the face made you look younger, I look like I'm 12," Hansen rejoined before anchor Gloria Campos led the nightly spasms of laughter. Even McCaa had a bonafide giggle eruption.

No one does "happy talk" better than Belo8, which isn't necessarily a compliment. Still, it beats another kick in the head from a crime story, although some stations will disagree.

By the way, June 1 will be Dale Hansen bobble-head doll night at the Fort Worth Cats baseball game in Fort Worth. And that -- pant-pant -- is a wrap.