Dallas City Council Concerned Over Safety on Dallas Trails

New trail safety unit to begin patrols this spring

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Dallas City Council Members Tuesday sounded an alarm over safety on the expanding network of hike and bike trails.

There are over 175 miles of park trails and Dallas is building more for transportation and recreation. But within 100 feet of a Dallas trail last year, there were 8 murders, 61 robberies and 135 aggravated assaults.

With daylight saving time and another summer on the way, Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee Chairman Adam McGough said the trail safety plan presented Tuesday is far too weak.

“We are expanding our trails across the city in amazing ways,” McGough said. “And we’re not adequately addressing the safety in that as we do this, not anywhere close. And I really, really want you all to raise the flag and say we’re not doing this good enough because I don’t believe we are.”

On the Santa Fe Trail that connects Deep Ellum with White Rock Lake, Keith Hartsfield counts on the path for his wheelchair after gunfire left him handicapped years ago.

He said the Santa Fe Trail can be dangerous.

“Summertime, it gets pretty wild out here, every summer,” Hartsfield said.

In July 2022, artist Tony Lechuga was shot as he jogged on the trail near his home.

“I remember hearing the shots and I remember thinking they were in the distance,” Lechuga told NBC5 as he recovered in the hospital last August.

Police made arrests weeks later and witnesses said that Lechuga was just caught in the crossfire from a shooter aiming for someone else.

“The way it was the middle of the day, it could have been any runner, any biker,” Lechuga said.

Neighbors at the location Tuesday remembered the July shooting.

“I'm very sorry about what happened to the young man and I think security is important, especially in the big cities,” neighbor Daniel Gomez said. “The more cameras and things like that, help police identify who the people are committing the crimes.”

The trail safety plan calls for police surveillance cameras along trails. There is just one in all of Dallas now. More solar lighting is also planned.

“Absolutely, solar lights? Let’s light up our trails. That should be a base policy of the city. Light up our trails,” McGough said.

Park Rangers will team up with Dallas Marshals and police for new trail patrols. They’re also asked to help clear homeless camps on trails, which McGough said has one trail unusable for passersby now.

Officials said a new All-Terrain Vehicle will help patrols.

“We’re not giving them enough resources. We don’t have enough Marshals. We don’t have enough Rangers. Not anywhere close. You said we have one of the largest parks and rec opportunities in the country and we have one ATV on the way? That’s severely inadequate,” McGough said.

Dallas Parks Director John Jenkins said a more robust plan is in the works and it will require a large budget increase.

“We’re still working on that comprehensive security plan. I think we’ve been in the process now for about 7 or 8 months,” Jenkins said. “There’s going to be a big ask because you’re right. We need daytime patrol and we need nighttime patrol. We do need more personnel. We need more technology. We need more enforcement.”

Also on the Santa Fe Trail Tuesday were George Nickson and Samantha Bennett riding bicycles.

“We ride this one all the time because it’s very convenient. You can get all the way out to the lake and back down to Deep Ellum,” Bennett said. “We would ride this trail as a commuter route even more if there were lights.”

Nickson said Dallas Trails also need basic cleaning improvement.

“Our safety issues are maintenance of the trails, the fact that there’s a lot of broken glass and debris,” he said. “Anything they can do to boost safety we’re in favor of, lights and cameras would be fantastic.”

Keith Hartsfield said he has seen police along the Santa Fe Trail but wants to see officers more often as summer approaches to prevent more crime.

“I can salute the Dallas Police department. Before it gets wild, they get on it, and stop it before it gets started,” he said.

Even though City Council Members said it’s not enough, city staff members said the new trail safety unit that’s planned for now will begin day and night patrols in a few weeks.

The public safety committee also heard details on the city's overall violent crime reduction plan. Murder and aggravated assault numbers are up so far in the first two months of 2023 but Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said crime is still trending down.

City Council Members said they are pleased with the progress police have made on overall crime reduction over the past two years.

Garcia said there is more work to do.

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