CTA upgrades surveillance cameras following crime spike in 2018

The Chicago Transit Authority is still in the process of installing a number of new high-definition security cameras across the rail system following a number of incidences of criminal activity.

The cameras are a part of the Safe & Secure program that was announced earlier this year by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The program takes initiative to increase the safety measures throughout the CTA system to promote a more secure travel experience.

At the end of the year, CTA had installed nearly 500 new cameras across the Red, Blue and Brown lines, according to a press release from Emanuel’s office. The press release also goes on to say that the CTA has also created a new book and a tour guide that are largely focused on the art and architecture of CTA stations.

“CTA customers expect and deserve the kind of investments that benefit their daily commutes and boost their overall riding experience,” Emanuel said. “Public art and security are two of the many tools we’re using to keep CTA the option of choice for Chicago commuters.”

When it was announced, Safe & Secure had the goal to upgrade over 3,800 older model cameras and add an additional 1,000 new cameras. The program is a $33 million investment that will take several years to fully complete.

The expansion of cameras comes as no surprise since Emanuel has doubled the number of the CTA’s security cameras since 2011 in an effort to deter criminal activity and also helping police to identify suspects and watch crime patterns.

When it was announced, Emanuel said that the program would be funded through the city’s fee on ride-share apps such as Uber and Lyft. The fee was $0.67 per-ride throughout the city in 2018, but at the beginning of 2019, the city increased the fee to $0.72 in an effort to continue funding the security efforts throughout the CTA.

“It’s an appropriate way, and I think it’s progressive, those who use Lyft and Uber, those riders, will be actually making sure the CTA is a competitive system from a transportation perspective, and the right investment to make,” Emanuel said to the Chicago Tribune last year.

For some ride-share users, the fee is welcomed in order to increase the security throughout CTA stations.

“I feel that paying less than a dollar on my Uber to get better cameras is completely worth it,” junior Katelyn Thompson said. “The cameras need to be updated, and this [fee] is the best way to do that without making taxes crazy high.”

Many have pointed to a number of crimes that have taken place in recent months as reasoning to heighten the security throughout the CTA. A video from late December went viral on social media, showing a couple being attacked by a group of young men at the Chicago Red Line station. The man suffered from bone fractures, abrasions and lacerations, according to police.

Back in December, a man was shot in the hip in the pedway between the Red and Blue line Jackson stops during rush hour traffic. The man was stabilized at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and despite the fact that most students were on break, Public Safety released an alert about the shooting.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that the high-definition surveillance cameras at the Jackson stop were aiding police in the search for the suspect.

“It’s concerning that [crime] like this happens so close to our campus,” sophomore Max Stephen said. “We think we’re safe on campus, but a shooting happened feet away from our classrooms.”

CTA riders also saw a spike in pickpocketing last year, according to city crime statistics. Over 2,000 incidents of nonviolent thefts were reported throughout 2018, with November alone seeing over 200 thefts – the worst November for thefts in 15 years. Overall, crime on CTA property went up 13 percent from 2017.

The push to heighten security throughout the CTA is being welcomed by many DePaul students, who worry about their safety in possible muggings while traveling across the city.

“Being aware of my surroundings and keeping my wallet close are always at the forefront of my mind,” Thompson said. “Adding higher quality cameras around the CTA to stop those people from doing it, I can definitely get behind that.”