DART or Driving? Driving costs more, but its a whole lot safer

When you dial 911 because a group of thugs is
trying to rape some teenage girls the correct response is NOT “We’ll
have someone there in 45 minutes”. The correct response is “We’ll have
someone there right away.” Shocking, I know, but all too true. I speak
from my own personal experience. Experience is a harsh and bitter
teacher and I feel quite fortunate that I excaped the experience
relatively unscathed but very angry.

A recent story published by the Dallas Morning News says that DART
usage is up 10% over last month and continues to climb thanks to the
recent hikes in gas prices. This means that even more of you are
exposed to a potentially life threatening situation in which you cannot
get any assistance from anyone. Being bounced back and forth from DPD
dispatch who says that cannot send officers because DART property is
outside their jurisdiction and DART dispatch who says that cannot send
officers because they have none to send is quite disturbing.

The fact that this group of thugs decided to attempt their crime not
200 feet from a DART police station is the most disturbing fact by far.
They apparently knew that they had nothing to fear from the police
despite being just a few feet away from me while I’m calling
frantically and screaming into my cell phone begging for help. The
whole experience has unnerved me so that I will be getting a concealed
handgun license so that I do not have to rely on what cannot be
trusted.

Since I cannot depend on the DART police or DPD to be concerned with
my safety while I am on DART property, so I will do what Texans have
historically done – get a gun so that I can see to my safety myself. I
find it tragic that it has come to this sad pass because you SHOULD be
able to call the police and have someone show up. Its part of what
makes us civilized – we don’t have to walk around “packing heat”. This
may be Texas but it isn’t the “Old West”. The year is 2006 not 1806!

This is the kind of thing that happens when society begins to break
down. This should be something I’d have to do in Somalia, Albania, and
Rwanda – NOT in Dallas, Texas. Frankly, I resent having this burden
placed upon me, because they are too lazy, too stupid, too cheap, too
shortsighted, etc. to actually deal with the problem. Whatever the
reason, it is totally insufficient. In my field of work, we often do
disaster planning. The first rule is that people and their well-being
always come first – far before any other consideration. That doesn’t
seem to be a philosophy that either DART or DPD seem to share, when you
happen to be on DART property.

If the City of Dallas’ police powers are not restricted, why do not
they not respond when DART is not able to? Am I not a citizen of
Dallas? Don’t my taxes go to pay for the DPD? Just because I ride DART,
I’m now subject to some sort of second class citizenship while on DART
property? I guess that if someone attacks me, I should run off DART
property and THEN call the police so that someone will be able to
respond?

I’m attaching a snippet of the agreement between DART and DPD.


5.6 Police and Security

In accordance with DART Board policy, and pursuant to Chapter
452, Texas Transportation Code, DART will provide security for
passengers on trains, at stations, on the Operational Throughway and at
other DART facilities at a level and using a means that DART determines
is appropriate. DART shall also enforce its fare collection
responsibilities. Interface between DART and the City regarding
security procedures for the LRT system may be coordinated through the
FLSC meetings. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to restrict
City’s police powers, as authorized by state and local law.

My own experience with both 911 (DPD) dispatch and DART police
dispatch says that this is not in play on a practical basis. In my
experience, I was told on more than one occasion that DPD could not
respond to my call for assistance with an attempted rape in progress
because it was outside their jurisdiction and that DART was unable to
respond for 45 minutes because they did not have an officer available.
How safe are you when call and NO ONE will come???

Repeated calls back to DPD only resulting in my being transferred
over and over to DART dispatch only to be told repeatedly that they had
no one to send despite the fact that we were at Union Station where
there is a DART police station. Now, if DART is unable to respond to an
urgent request given the paragraph above why isn’t DPD taking over and
sending officers? Just five minutes of a uniformed officer’s time would
have made all the difference the world.

Understand that during all this, I am the only thing – literally –
standing between three to five 17-20 year old males and two teenage
girls. At the time I was wearing a cast on my right foot up to the knee
and on crutches – not exactly in any condition to defend myself
physically. Had some of other male passengers not heard the ruckus I
was creating and intervened I feel certain that it would have quickly
escalated to physical violence against the three of us. I still fail to
see why a uniformed officer could not be sent out from the station to
break up the situation. It’s especially frustrating since I knew that
there were officers present not 200 feet away from where this was
happening.

Because of the events on that day, I’ve been doing some more
research on the issue. There are 41 DART rail stops and 56 DART “Park
and Ride” locations. I’ve been told that there are only 138 DART police
officers and their own staffing plan only calls for 238 officers. This
sounds like a lot but this is a transit system that runs from DFW
airport to Rowlett and from Plano to Duncanville. DART officers work in
pairs for thier own saftey and need to be available 24×7 since you
cannot get the local cities police departments to respond to crimes on
DART property.

2 (officers per pair) x 3 (3-8 hour shifts) x 97 (Rail Stops + Park and Rides) = 582 officers

That’s just to have officers at the rail stations and Park and Ride
locations. That doesn’t cover the various bus stops and routes at all.
For that you need another 90 to 150 officers, spread out so that can
respond appropriately when someone needs help.

582 + 90 = 672 officers at a minimum

672 – 238 (officers in the “staffing plan”) = 434 officers short at a best case scenario

672 – 138 (number of officers I’ve been told they actually have) = 534 officers short

Please note that this does not include any kind of management
infrastructure, training officers, etc. This are strictly “beat cops”
out patrolling and doing their jobs, keeping the rest of us safe.

How safe is DART? You might say, “I haven’t seen anything in the
news about crime on DART.” The answer to that is no, you have not seen
this one the news because the fact of the matter is that DART doesn’t
report their crime stastics to the FBI so that they can be published.
The officers that I’ve spoken to say that they are overwhelmed with all
types of crime from petty theft to car burgulries to violent assaults,
all of which go unreported. The DART police deparment is operating in a
“covert” mode and my suspicion is that the stastics are alarming or
they’d be freely available.

I’ve also been doing some research about other public transit
systems. Do you know that we have the only public transit system on the
entire planet where you can access passenger waiting areas without a
ticket? I would suggest that DART start requiring a ticket to access
the passenger waiting areas and parking areas. I have a friend who’s
from Greece. Even he admits that Greece isn’t what you’d typically
think of as a well-organized yet they have one of the cleanest and
safest public transportations systems in Europe. He says that if the
Greek government, which is certainly not a model of efficiency, can
pull this off that DART should be able to as well.

Furthermore, the DART bus drivers seem to get about the same level
of response from the DART police as members of the general public do.
The bus drivers should be placed in a saftey enclosure and not exposed
to the vagaries of their passengers. I’ve spoken to several of the bus
drivers who are afraid of their passengers. In one particular instance,
there were some very rowdy teenagers on the bus. They were drinking –
passing around 40 oz bottles of beer, behaving in a threatening manner,
swinging themselves and each other around on the hand rails, and
flipping lit cigarettes at the other passengers.

When I said something to the bus driver about it, he looked very
scared. I asked him why he didn’t call the DART police and he said,
“They won’t come in time. Those kids beat the last bus driver that
called in on them and put him in the hospital.” He then asked me sit
down and not mention calling in again because they might become violent
toward both of us.

The real morale of the story here is that even the DART personnell
are not safe on DART. If they’re not safe, how safe are the riders?
Thousands of people every day leave their cars at “Park and Ride”
locations where they are subject to break-ins and vandalism. Thousands
more take the trains and busses where they are exposed to every kind of
criminal element from which they have no protection. As always, the
poorer sectors of the city receive less coverage and have more crime.
I’m told that some of the Park and Ride locations in the southern
portion of the system map have underground parking areas that are not
patrolled. Since they are not patrolled and they are not visible from
the street level, they are particularly dangerous.

I have been accosted several times while waiting for trains at Union
Station. One night in particular stands out in my mind. Two apparently
homeless men walked over to stand next to me and proceeded to rather
loudly discuss how they had beaten, raped, and choked a woman who had
been waiting for the train the night before. The phrase that they used
over and over was “doing her cave-man style”. This happened while
waiting for the 8:17 pm train to come. Realizing that I would get no
help from DART or DPD, I didn’t even bother calling them this time. I
chose to confront the men and told them in strong language that they
needed to get away from me and not come back. The direct confrontation
surprised them and they left the area immediately.

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