One month ago Dallas Area Rapid Transit released its 2011 Customer Satisfaction Survey, with nine out of 10 riders insisting they would recommend DART to others. But Pages 19 and 20 of the 23-page report are filled with concerns over security aboard DART buses and trains: Only 78 percent of those surveyed said they felt safe at stops and stations, a five-year low for the transit agency; and only 70 percent said they see DART cops riding the rails, a new low. "This may have a direct correlation to customers' decline in feeling safe on DART trains," said the survey.
DART said it had several fixes in mind: "modifying deployment plans to increase police presence," installing closed-circuit cams at stations by the middle of the year, strengthening the ties between DART police and local and federal law enforcement agencies. "One particular effort with Dallas Police," said the release accompanying the survey, "is aimed at reducing crime involving juveniles." This, after 19-year-old Octavius Lanier was killed by kids, between the ages of 12 and 14, at the MLK Station in November; and 20-year-old Dominique Wilson was shot and killed in January at the Pearl Station.
A little farther north, of course, was the scene of yesterday's incident that began when a man, thought to be around 25, boarded a bus at the Arapaho Center Station and had a run-in with a driver. Cops were called; shots, ultimately, fired. And in the end, two are dead: the gunman and a passenger waiting on a platform, caught, perhaps, in the crossfire. A DART officer was also wounded.
And once again DART will be asked: Are you doing enough to make the trains and buses safe?
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"This, in my opinion, has gone too far," council member Dwaine Caraway tells Unfair Park this morning. Till now, he says, he's been fine with letting the council's appointed members to the DART board deal with issues of security; now, he says, it's time for the council to ask questions of DART President Gary Thomas and Chief J.D. Spiller, among others. "I will turn up the heat and my voice: They have to do something. They must. Today. They need to have a new plan and implement it. An emergency plan. They need to keep the people safe. If it's a fact of money, stop building and keep the people safe. They're gonna build and build, but who's gonna ride if it's not safe?"
But as DART spokesman Mark Ball told Channel 11 yesterday: "I don't really know what can be done, you have a right to carry in the state of Texas." Cathy Bentz, a regular rider from Garland, was at the Arapaho station yesterday; she was unfazed by the incident, telling The News that, look, "Something like that could happen anywhere -- on a car, in a plane, even just going for a walk."
Caraway had been on Channel 4 last night insisting DART put officers on every train and every bus; he proposed TSA-style security checkpoints at stations. This morning, he's come off that just a bit. "We need to put police on buses where we feel we have concerns and at those stations," he says.
"But ultimately we're spending millions of dollars on trains, and they're at risk when people don't feel safe. You don't want to inconvenience riders and make it miserable to ride. But innocent people were killed and injured. Something needs to take place. And my voice will be extremely loud till it's addressed. My voice will be very public and one I think is needed. We need to turn into a choir all singing the same song, the song of safety."