Dallas Cops Get Grant to Study How to Patrol the Trinity

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It may comes as a surprise, but as more of the Trinity River project becomes actually worth using, the security concerns facing the area become more complex. To that end, with help from a grant by the Caruth Foundation through the Trinity Trust, the Dallas Police Department is conducting a $300,000 study on how to best patrol the area's diverse terrain.

Today, the Vonciel Jones Hill-chaired transportation and Trinity River project committee received an update on the study and security throughout the project from Assistant Police Chief Tom Lawrence and Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan.

"To be quite frank it's an area we had not spent a lot of time on in the past," Lawrence said, talking about the area surrounding the Trinity. Through the study, Lawrence says, the department will figure out "what safety looks like" for the Trinity.

One of the biggest concerns for the DPD, Lawrence told the committee, is how to police the woodlands near the river.

"We don't have a lot of experience working in forested areas as an urban police department," Lawrence said.

To combat that inexperience, Lawrence suggested ideas like volunteer patrols -- he said fisherman had been particularly helpful so far -- and bringing in experts from Cook County in Illinois and the U.S. Park Police to help DPD better understand the issues it is facing.

Figuring out how to patrol the forest is important because, Lawrence said, there has been a lot of misuse in those areas, including illegal deer blinds and a few marijuana groves.

The clear cut areas around the river face a different set of issues. Dumping into the river, of tires and other things, is a problem, one that isn't helped by the project's hiking and biking trails being accessible to cars and trucks.

Jordan told the committee that right now there is a security guard who patrols the levees. If he sees something suspicious or illegal, he calls the Dallas city marshals.

Ultimately, Lawrence says the goal is to have a dedicated Trinity Forest unit, the cost of which, Jordan said, could be mitigated by using storm-water fees, which already pay for some of the marshals and some surveillance cameras along the river.

Council member Sheffie Kadane offered his own solution, bringing back the city's long defunct "park patrol," cops who were only detailed to police parks.

The full City Council will be briefed on the results of the study in August or September.

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