More Riders, More Crime on DART Network

DART Bus Station | Image by Dallas Area Rapid Transit (Official DART page)/Facebook
DART Bus Station | Image by Dallas Area Rapid Transit (Official DART page)/Facebook

Dallas Area Rapid Transit saw significantly more crime and calls for service in the first quarter of this year compared to 2023, and officials are responding by deploying 100 new armed security guards.

The DART network, which includes light rail, commuter trains, and buses servicing Dallas and a dozen nearby cities, recorded an 18% year-over-year surge in crime in the first three months of 2024, per Fox 4 KDFW. Meanwhile, the DART Police Department received twice the number of calls — 1,055, of which 437 were Priority 1 calls.

The Dallas Express has reported extensively on the vagrancy, drug use, and violent crime that is prevalent on public transportation in the area — much of which likely comprises spillovers from Dallas proper.

“There’s people sleeping in there, which I understand they need a place to sleep,” a regular DART passenger named Tommy Starks told Fox 4. “But we’re going to work, and they’re doing drugs. There’s people that are drugged up.”

On May 8, Starks witnessed a man threatening other passengers with a machete. In response, another passenger pulled out a gun and tried to bring the man to order.

“So here I am in the middle of this guy with a machete and a guy behind me with a gun,” Starks said. “And I’m just trying to go to work at 5:30 in the morning.”

Starks ultimately called 911, and the machete-wielding man was eventually put into emergency mental health detention at a local hospital.

Despite these issues, DART, which marked 40 years of operation last August, has recovered from a ridership slump following the COVID-19 lockdowns and projects tremendous growth in the coming years.

With the future in mind, DART officials have launched initiatives to improve sanitation and safety aboard its buses and trains.

Last September, DART launched its Cares program, which consists of four teams—two mobile—offering services to vagrants, homeless riders, and passengers suffering from severe mental illness. The program cost roughly $1.6 million in taxpayer money and was modeled after Austin’s “street medicine” programs.

San Antonio has seen considerable success through its partnership with the homeless services nonprofit Haven for Hope, which purportedly reduced unsheltered homelessness in the city’s downtown area by around 77%. Haven for Hope offers social services on the same campus it maintains transitional housing.

In April, DART plans to roll out an updated CCTV system and a number of environmental design changes to prevent crime, such as brighter LED lighting and barriers.

Even though DART added 100 armed security guards last summer to its force of 252 police and fare-enforcement officers, Starks wants to see more.

“I want to see a stronger presence of security in the morning time,” he told Fox 4.

Research has shown that a visible police presence, especially in targeted areas, is an effective deterrent against crime. Fort Worth has reportedly seen success with a specialized neighborhood police unit and private security guards patrolling its downtown area, which logs considerably less crime than Downtown Dallas.

While DART has enough officers on hand to have recently cut response times in half from about eight minutes to four minutes amid higher call volume, the understaffed Dallas Police Department has struggled to meet its targets, especially for non-Priority 1 calls, as covered by The Dallas Express.

DPD has around 3,000 officers even though a City report recommended a force size of 4,000 to ensure public safety. Meanwhile, the Dallas City Council approved a DPD budget of just $654 million, considerably less than the spending levels on public safety seen in other high-crime cities.

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