DART passenger attacked on train speaks out




Posted on December 21, 2011 at 10:51 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 22 at 1:48 AM

DALLAS — Jose Hurtado depends on Dallas Area Rapid Transit to get to school and work.  He has been riding the system for nearly a year, but every trip now worries him.

"I start trembling," he said. "It's just a phobia and a panic when I ride the train now.  I don't feel safe."

The college student was attacked on a train last September.  Police reports obtained by News 8 show that at least eight young men beat him with batons after stealing his iPad on DART's Green Line near the Hatcher Station.

"I was just taking hits left and right," Hurtado said.  "I was hit in my head like six to eight times with the baton."

Hurtado went to the hospital.  His visit cost him more than $7,000. 

Hurtado filed a police report with DART,  but he told News 8  he's frustrated because no arrests have been made in the case. He still sees his attackers on the train.

"I have seen them not just once, but more than five times on the train," Hurtado said.

DART couldn't comment on the case because it is under investigation.  The agency's police chief, James Spiller, told News 8 the case is not closed. 

When we asked Spiller if DART officers are trying to catch the people responsible, he said: "Yes, we are."

Hurtado's case is just one of the increasing number of thefts and robberies on DART trains and buses.  Those crimes have doubled compared to last year's numbers.  

The agency has posted a video on YouTube, warning passengers who use phones and computers on the system to be on alert.

"The system is safe," Spiller said.  "Criminals want to take advantage of those things most likely that they can get away with." 

Spiller blames the economy for the crime increase, but he said the agency —  with a force of 230 officers — is combatting crime with people and technology. 

DART is installing more cameras on trains and buses, and putting more officers — undercover and in uniform — on the system.

"We are being smart on how we allocate our officers, because we want to make sure we are visible," Spiller said.  "We are being vigilant and we are using these resources smartly based upon where we see crime occurring, and hopefully, we'll see those things going down."

Spiller added that the agency is making arrests. 

DART also plans to launch a texting program next March or April to encourage passengers to report suspicious activity en route without giving their names.

"We need their help," said Spiller.  "We need their eyes and ears.  It just can't be police.  In order for the system to be safe as people would like it to be, we need their involvement to help us."

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com