DART votes on spending millions for more cameras, security guards

DART approved millions of dollars for a new safety plan that includes armed security guards and more security cameras.

The Dallas transit agency is facing complaints that there are not enough police officers on trains and not enough security cameras to record criminal activity. DART plans to hire uniformed security guards to assist its police department.

The agency’s planners say a safer and more secure riding experience on DART trains and buses is still on track.

The agency has a plan for more surveillance on the platforms and better lighting to be fully implemented by April 2018. Their goal is to discourage crime, like the brutal mob beating recorded on a cell phone earlier this year.

The board formally voted Tuesday night to add cameras to its 163 light rail vehicles and hire 30 new armed security guards. It’s a quicker safety solution than putting DART police officers through a lengthy training academy. 

"Then, they're doing field training. So it takes a long time for them to be actually out in the field,” explained DART spokesman Morgan Lyons. “Armed security guards, we can get out quicker. And that’s one of the areas where the board's challenged us is to move quicker."

The agency plans to have more eyes, light and security presence, especially during overnight hours.

"Dallas police brings in additional personnel to do additional coverage during the period from 10 to 2 a.m. and throughout the night,” explained DART Police Chief James Spiller.

DART has also faced criticism for not releasing surveillance video to help catch violent criminals while petty crimes seem to get more exposure. In terms of the ongoing debate of whether or when to release video, there's no clear-cut answers.

"Considering how we can use that technology to either help identify that person or to deliver information, that’s kind of an ongoing conversation for us,” Lyons said.

DART also has other plans in the works to make trains safer, including putting a feed of the security camera footage on bus monitors so people know they're being watched.

Staff will come back to the board in January with a plan to deploy that idea.

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