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Presence, Innovation, Customer Engagement Key to DART Security

Feeling safe is a basic human need, whether you’re in the mall, at the park, on the job or using public transportation.

Customers of Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) consistently report feeling safe when riding the system. In fact, recent agency surveys show 77 percent of respondents in an online panel report feeling safe on DART. But the agency is striving to do more.

With riders regularly citing this sense of security as a factor in choosing transit—and with agencies nationwide taking steps to improve the customer experience and grow ridership—DART is increasing its police presence, expanding deployment of security cameras, enhancing station infrastructure and using new smartphone technology. It’s all about empowering riders to play an active role in their own transit security.

“Security and safety are essential elements of the customer experience,” said DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas. “Creating a great experience is key for transit agencies of any size seeking to grow ridership and strengthen public support for transit and investment in transit.”

Start with People
DART’s police force has grown dramatically since it was created by the agency’s board of ­directors in September 1989 in anticipation of the arrival of rail service. Today it is one of the largest police agencies in North Texas, consisting of more than 200 police officers with Texas Peace Officer Authority and supported by fare enforcement officers, administrative staff and a dispatch center operating around the clock.

 A DART K-9 officer patrols Fair Park Station.

The force includes accident investigation units, criminal investigation teams and K-9 officers trained in bomb detection, along with patrol officers responsible for ensuring the security of riders traveling through a 700-square-mile, 13-city service area with 130 bus routes, 93 miles of light rail, commuter rail, paratransit and a variety of passenger facilities. Officers reassure riders by routinely patrolling passenger facilities, riding the bus and rail system and regularly helping first-time riders make their connections.

DART has long used contract security officers to expand coverage. The agency deploys contracted and uniformed security officers located on strategic rail platforms. Additional security officers will support the agency’s goal of providing a uniformed presence on every train. DART has already modified its deployment plans and increased coverage and visibility by moving officers to busier areas or areas with higher levels of criminal activity.

“Visibility of our police, fare enforcement and security officers is important to customers, and we’re changing our deployment strategies and becoming more inclusive of technology, physical security enhancements and customer communications,” said Thomas. “Enhancing police and security visibility is a challenge for us and transit police everywhere. It requires a comprehensive approach to addressing perceptions of crime and improving employee and customer safety and security.”

Bright Lights, More Cameras
Criminals can’t lurk in the shadows if there aren’t any. Riders say they feel safer when they can clearly see their

DART Chief of Police and Emergency Management James Spiller discusses the agency’s security initiatives at West End Station.
surroundings and the people in them. As a result, DART is updating system l­ighting with brighter LED technology to improve visibility at stations and parking areas. Riders are already reporting the difference.

The agency is also exploring other physical changes to station areas, such as additional or different signage or markings or barriers to more clearly designate passenger areas.

Thousands of cameras monitor all DART rail stations and passenger facilities, and DART plans to install video monitors at key stations so customers can see what the cameras are seeing. Cameras are also built into the agency’s new bus fleet. DART recently added cameras to 48 of its light rail vehicles and will install them on the full 163-car fleet within two years. These cameras can be monitored in real time from the police dispatch center. The feed is also recorded to support criminal, safety or operational issues.

Connecting Customers
to Security
The message “See something, Say something” has become part of the national lexicon. This is especially true in the public transit environment, reminding passengers of their role in maintaining security on the buses and trains they use daily.

DART’s “see something, say something” app enables riders to report suspicious activity, call for help and receive safety alerts.
DART joined more than a dozen public ­transit agencies of all sizes in November 2017 when it deployed the “DART Say Something” smartphone app. The free app, created by ELERTS, allows customers to text ­descriptions, send photos and videos and report suspicious activity. It provides safety alerts issued by DART police, allows users to share their location on a map and indicate whether they need help and works with the DART mobile website. More than 7,500 smartphone-using customers have downloaded the app thus far, with DART police receiving an average of 200 messages daily from riders. These messages have already helped police locate numerous criminal suspects and respond to a variety of security issues, including some recent assault cases.

A comprehensive marketing and communications campaign supports app deployment, including use of earned and social media, station asset advertising and direct customer engagement by DART employees. More than 130 DART employees joined agency police and fare enforcement officers across the service area to listen to customers, tell them about new security initiatives and thank them for riding. More than 1,300 new downloads were made in the days leading up to and following the single-day push. Additional employee-led customer events will be staged throughout the year to promote safe riding and improving the customer experience.

“There’s no single answer or tool to maintaining security,” Thomas concluded. “We need to use every resource and engage our employees and customers to make our safe system safer.”
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