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Safety essential for DART riders

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Dallas Morning News Editorial

The brutal beating of DART train passenger Kennan Jones this summer thrust the transit system into a spotlight on security that it did not want.

Safety is essential for people who choose to use Dallas Area Rapid Transit. The agency can signal that it's taking these concerns serious by approving an additional $1.7 million to beef up security, when a measure comes up for a vote in December.

The $1.7 million would increase the number of security guards under contract with Walden Security from 30 to 60, making it possible to have a uniformed presence on every train from 5 a.m. to midnight.

With DART facing scrutiny for some crimes over the last year -- including the beating of Jones and a city worker in Dallas who said that after seven years she was done with riding DART -- the additional security should set some riders at ease.

As it stands now, the security situation is not a concern during peak hours. However, that is not the case late at night or, odd as it may seem, in the middle of the day. Criminals are more likely to take advantage when fewer riders are on the trains.

Whether it's a DART police officer, fare enforcement officer or even an unarmed security guard, the sight of somebody in uniform on a train provides a sense of peace for riders as well as giving bad actors pause -- and a reason to leave the train.

The agency is also taking other steps to help with security. DART is testing surveillance systems on 19 train cars now, with plans for a wider rollout by spring. It also released a new mobile app, called Say Something, that will make it easier for riders to report problems like crimes, unattended bags, vandalism, medical emergencies and panhandling.

The app, available in Apple and Google app stores, allows users to give details of the incident and share a photo. Users can submit their name or remain anonymous.

Some challenges remain. The newly hired security guards do not have the authority to check fares, so riders should not expect them to remove those who haven't paid.

Uniformed officers will be on each train but not necessarily each car -- and will not be able to move between all cars while the train is moving. And there are still concerns about safety at DART parking lots, bus stops and transit centers.

DART wants ridership to increase as Dallas and the surrounding areas served by DART continue to grow. Helping riders feel more safe on its trains is certainly a step in the right direction.