Serious crime on CTA down 19 percent in 2012

February 25, 2013

Enforcement, arrests up in some categories thanks to more-effective policing

Increased policing and expanded crime prevention measures reduced overall violent crimes on CTA properties in 2012 by 19 percent, continuing a downward trend reflecting the collective efforts of the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Transit Authority.

In 2012, the number of robberies and aggravated battery incidents reported on CTA were down by 21 percent and nearly 12 percent, respectively, compared to 2011.

“CTA and CPD have worked hard to have a more effective presence on buses and trains, and we’re pleased to see a significant drop in violent crimes,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool.

A published media report cites a 21 percent increase in crime at CTA rail stations, yet fails to provide context to those numbers, CTA officials said. For example, the most common rail station crime—fare evasion—was up 41 percent, contributing to much of the overall increase. 

“We are committed to addressing fare evasion as part of our strategy to aggressively prevent would-be offenders from committing more serious crimes,” said Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

Additionally, the crime stats include offenses of all varieties, from vandalism to theft of CTA signs to trespassing—crimes that don’t directly impact the safety and security of CTA customers.

Much of the reason that reported crime, along with others, is up is due to the expanded presence of police on the CTA system.  CPD has introduced a number of proactive measures--like teams to target pickpocket rings and rail saturation missions.  This has led to an increase in arrests for crimes that might not have been otherwise reported.

Theft, which is a non-violent crime, saw an increase of nearly 16 percent since the previous year—much of that attributable to thefts of cell phones and other electronic devices.

The increase in thefts on CTA property is reflective of a national trend that other U.S. cities and public transportation systems are continuing to see as more people use smartphones and other electronic devices on public transit.

“We remind passengers to be aware of their surroundings and their personal belongings while traveling on the system and walking to and from stops,” said Commander Nancy Lipman of CPD’s Public Transportation Section.

With about half of all American adults now owning a smartphone or tablet, according to a Pew Research study, opportunities to steal electronics worth several hundred dollars are increasing and contributing to spikes in thefts and robberies across the nation. CTA continues to work closely with CPD and local law enforcement to identify crime trends throughout the system and use all available resources to combat theft and other crimes committed on the system.

Over the past year, CTA and CPD have taken other steps to enhance bus and rail system security, including:

  • Continued implementation of Rail Saturation Missions by CPD’s Public Transportation Section.
  • Assignment of CPD detectives responsible for CTA video enforcement and deterrence initiatives.
  • Doubling the size of the CTA Security Department by filling previously vacant, budgeted positions and creating three new positions, which include two former detectives and two security specialists.
  • The restructuring of CTA’s Security Department to adopt a regional approach to policing, which mirrors the structure of CPD and will allow security staff to become more familiar with their assigned locations and work in conjunction with CPD detectives assigned in each region.
  • Creation of a new, modern video surveillance room 12 times larger than the previous facility, featuring nearly three dozen displays for CTA security personnel and assigned police detectives to review video from buses and trains and access live, real-time feeds from rail system cameras.

Combined, these new initiatives will allow for improved video surveillance, quicker response and greater efficiency of resources among CTA and CPD personnel responsible for investigating crimes, mining evidence and intelligence provided by CTA’s camera network, analyzing criminal trends and patterns and conducting real-time remote surveillance missions.

“Installing cameras is not the answer to addressing all crimes on the CTA, but they are an invaluable tool that’s making it easier for police to do their jobs and to get offenders off the street and off our system,” Claypool said.

CTA cameras have been extremely effective in identifying individuals committing crimes. In 2012, camera images were used in the arrests of at least 144 either on or off CTA properties.  These were arrests that might not have occurred absent camera images. The images have also aided in the conviction of at least seven offenders who were sentenced to a combined 42 years in correctional facilities, plus one offender sentenced to three life sentences for crimes committed off CTA properties.

Camera images have also been used in conjunction with the arrests of several individuals charged with violent crimes, including a December sexual assault near the Morse Red Line station. This demonstrates how the cameras are most effective, as an evidentiary tool that aides in the successful apprehension and prosecution of these offenders. 

Currently, buses in CTA’s fleet of 1,800 are equipped with 7-10 cameras depending model and there are more than 3,600 cameras across the rail system and in all 145 stations. Expansion of the camera network continues in 2013, with the receipt of additional 5000 series rail cars that are each equipped with seven cameras and the retrofitting of approximately 850 existing rail cars with four cameras per car. These two initiatives will add more than 7,500 cameras.

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