(TNS) — For once, Dallas City Council members are pleased with Dallas Area Rapid Transit's plans.
DART's plans to bolster security on its trains won plaudits Monday from the city council's Public Safety Committee. The agency's efforts include more security cameras and putting some kind of officer — police, security guards or unarmed fare enforcement officers — on every train.
"It's really a step in the right direction," said council member Sandy Greyson, who is frequently critical of DART leadership.
Major crimes have ticked up on DART since dipping down to 566 Part I offenses — the most serious crimes, including robbery, rape, theft and aggravated assault — in 2014, according to the department's statistics. Through October, the latest numbers available, the department had recorded 688 Part I crimes.
Much of the system's crime is concentrated downtown near the West Transfer Center, Rosa Parks Plaza and the West End Station.
But safety on DART trains came into focus during the summer after a video captured a group beating a man on a green line train at Deep Ellum Station. Three people were later arrested and charged with the attack.
In December, DART's board of directors approved spending $1.7 million for 30 additional security guards, provided by contract with Walden Security. Those security guards will now wear DART passes, lest they be confused for other private security officers simply taking a ride home or to work.
DART, which already has cameras on all 600 of its buses, is also adding more cameras to its trains. DART Police Chief James D. Spiller said 39 of the first 48 camera installations are already complete. The agency's goal was to have those cameras installed by the end of March, and install another 50 or more in the year after that.
"We're well on track to having those cameras in place," Spiller said.
In November, the agency also launched a "See Something, Say Something" app, which allows passengers to submit anonymous tips to DART police.
And Spiller said the agency is working with Dallas police to chase off loitering homeless people and panhandlers at stations, as well as those who are riding trains without paying a fare.
The update was welcome news for the council members, who routinely have taken shots at DART for its bus service, safety, expenditures and efficiency. Last year, the frustration boiled over when the council replaced almost all of its DART board appointees.
But on Monday, the committee's members took turns praising DART and Spiller.
Council member Philip Kingston made a public plea for DART to consider installing turnstiles rather than relying on passengers to prove they paid after they've already hopped aboard.
But Kingston, who represents a portion of an increasingly residential downtown area, lauded DART for taking safety seriously.
"DART is really, really important, and for too long, DART has been an avenue for criminal activity," Kingston said. "And seeing DART renew its commitment to making that experience safe for the riders is really important for those of us who live in and around transfer stations."
Committee chairman Adam McGough said he hopes DART officials will stay in touch with Dallas leaders about their efforts.
"It just sounds like you're listening," McGough told Spiller. "And that's the important part here."
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