April 2012

Dallas’ DART stepping up rail security in wake of shooting

by Nicole Schlosser, Senior Editor

Following a shooting at a Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) station in February that left one passenger dead and another passenger and DART Police officer injured, the agency is increasing its security efforts. DART added a uniformed security presence on every train, will add closed-circuit cameras at all light rail stations and implemented a texting program, enabling passengers to send text messages to DART police to report suspicious behavior.

DART redeployed its 140 police and fare enforcement officers so it has a uniformed presence on every train. The system operates up to 42 trains, in sets of two or three railcars, during its peak service. The uniformed staff will be on the vehicles during regular operating hours.

"We're making sure that we've got people out in the field, out of cars, on the trains," DART President/CEO Gary Thomas said. "There's some overtime as well."

The transit system also continues to use armed security guards in a variety of capacities.

DART Police conduct sweeps of stations and is stepping up enforcement of the agency's Code of Conduct in an effort to maintain system safety and the passenger's sense of security.

"Our customers like seeing the uniformed presence," Thomas said.
While it's a bit premature to talk about actual statistics this early in this process, he added, anecdotally, it appears the fare evasion rate and incidents are decreasing.

The agency also placed more police and fare enforcement officers at some of its busiest stations and increased the security guard presence on its rail platforms and bus transfer centers that interface between the rail and buses.

Thomas added that DART increased security on its buses as well. "We still have the complement of patrol focusing on the buses," Thomas said.

The agency's police officers and sergeants are working with its supervisors to make sure they understand the challenges on certain bus routes. "That way our operators can make sure that we stepped up our plainclothes officers' presence on the buses and trains, as well as the uniformed presence — at least one fare enforcement and police officer — on each of our trains," Thomas said.

One of the challenges that has arisen in increasing security staff, Thomas said, is often, a fare enforcement officer or a police officer needs to leave a train to assist a passenger or respond to an incident. DART put a system in place that sends one officer to a train as another leaves.

Additionally, the 13 member cities in DART's service area have stepped up their presence on train platforms and buses with undercover officers. DART continues to allow uniformed officers to ride free on its trains.

The agency also continued adding closed-circuit cameras at all 55 light rail stations and will begin a security camera pilot program with its new CNG bus fleet, scheduled to be put in service later this year. DART also plans to install nearly 7,000 cameras throughout the system.

This spring, customers will also be able to send text messages to DART Police to report suspicious behavior. "Oftentimes, if someone's on a train platform or bus [they may] not be comfortable in that kind of situation putting a phone to their ear and complaining to someone on the other end," Thomas said. "But, you can text within your comfort zone a little more inconspicuously."

Police will use an analytic set of criteria to determine what, how and when to respond to text messages. 


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