Lori Lightfoot addresses CTA crime as cases rise


Xavier Ortega | The DePaulia

Chicago police at the Jackson Red Line CTA stop.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled a plan to fight crime on the CTA on Friday, Feb. 28. The announcement comes after several high-profile crimes over the last month.

The new initiative will add an additional 50 police officers to patrol CTA platforms, stations, trains and bus stops, bringing the total number of officers to 250. The Chicago police will also add a new Strategic Decision Support Center in the 1st district, which will focus on solving crimes on the CTA and in that district.

The center will include a technological strategy called “smart policing technology,” which includes the addition of over 32,000 new cameras on CTA property, according to city officials. Four detectives will also be dedicated to solving common types of crime that occur on the CTA, such as cell phone robberies, pick-pocketing and theft.

According to a Chicago Tribune analysis, CTA crime doubled between 2015 and 2018, despite the addition of cameras on the train cars. The CPD made arrests for just 11 percent of the robberies reported on the CTA in 2019, nearly half the arrest rate for robberies in 2015.

The CTA is an essential part of moving around in the city, and the rise in crimes has affected the way many DePaul students travel. DePaul student David Wagner has changed his commute by avoiding certain train lines and riding at certain times.

“I stopped taking the Red Line mostly, I only use it when I really need to,” said Wagner. “I heard about the Jackson tunnel shooting so now I try to take the Purple Line and I don’t ride the CTA after 9 p.m.”

36-year-old DePaul University Theatre professor Jasmine Bracey also avoids using the Red Line after the crime spikes.

“The Red Line I try to avoid more in general, particularly at night,” Bracey said. “I avoid it during rush hour or Cubs games, when crimes are particularly reported.”

The most prominent difference in the city’s new initiative is the additional officers patrolling the stations. This strategy has been employed in the past and didn’t provide significant results, and many seem to think it will be impactful this time either.

“I don’t think it will be helpful because someone can bring a gun on the train and the cop will have to be lucky to be on that car at the same time,” Wagner said. “When it’s really crowded, there’s too many people around.”

Bracey shares a similar doubt about the impact of police presence on the CTA.

“Considering the fact that the CPD causes crime sometimes, no,” said Bracey. “They usually travel in groups of four and if there’s too many officers on one train, it creates a different message than one guy and his canine. Part of me wonders if it’s different when they’re on the train or just at the station.”

Bracey is referring to the incident at the Grand Red Line station where police officers patrolling the train shot a man who they tried to stop for switching between train cars, which is prohibited by a city ordinance. A video filmed by a nearby passenger shows the officers struggling to arrest the man as they tased and sprayed him in the face with pepper spray. As the man tried to escape up the escalator, an officer shot at him twice.

“I think the police might make issues worse because they might instigate things and cause greater issue rather than resolving the issue of violence,” DePaul student Adrian Maldonado said.

Overall, crime has significantly risen on the CTA over the last five years. According to NBC 5 Chicago, there were 6,321 crimes reported on the CTA last year, more than the 4,116 crimes reported in 2015.

“I now feel like I have to constantly check my surroundings because of how unsafe I feel,” Maldonado said. “I have to keep all of my belongings secured and now I feel that no one can be trusted.”