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CHICAGO (CBS) — City officials announced Wednesday that new police officers will be hired, and trained to protect passengers on the Chicago Transit Authority system.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel was joined by CTA President Forrest Claypool, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, and Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) for the announcement Wednesday morning, in Union Park just outside the Ashland Green Line stop, at Ashland Avenue and Lake Street.
As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, 50 new officers will be assigned permanently to the public transit system.
Emanuel said Claypool went through the CTA budget line-by-line, and found that the agency was spending $9.7 million on police officers who were working security on a part-time basis while off-duty.
“He has decided strategically, it makes more sense to add 50 permanent – rather than 60 part-time – 50 permanent officers as part of the security on our public transportation system – our buses and our rail.”
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In addition, Emanuel said, security cameras have already been added to the CTA system and now amount to 1,500. By year’s end, there will be 3,000 security cameras in the system.
“It brings a level of security that’s comprehensive, from 3,000 cameras throughout the system by year’s end, starting a new unit with 50 officers permanently assigned to the public transit system, so people going to and from work, or from neighborhood to neighborhood, can feel safe and not worry about it,” Emanuel said.
Claypool said security has already improved on the CTA, since more officers were deployed in the wake of the violent mob attacks and other incidents in the downtown area last month.
“Safety is our top priority. Since Mayor Emanuel ordered the wolfpack patrols into action in June, in response to a rash of robberies and thefts, we’ve seen a significant impact,” Claypool said. “While six weeks is too soon to identify trends, we have early evidence that these rail system patrols serve as a deterrent.”
The new officers will improve security even more, Claypool said, by deterring not only thefts and robberies, but also “nuisance crimes” such as turnstile jumping and panhandling.
“I’m a firm believer that if we can stop these minor incidents when we see them, we will prevent them from becoming and leading to even bigger problems for us,” he said.
The cameras that have been installed in the CTA system are already succeeding at their jobs, Claypool said. Recently, they have helped police make seven arrests for robbery and four for theft – from cell phones to people’s money, Claypool said.
McCarthy said the new officers would be assigned to individual transit lines as their beats.
“The issue here is that it’s going to be the same police officers every single day, which is our philosophy – the same cop on the same beat every single day, and in this case, the same officers on the same transit lines, knowing the rail systems intimately and responding to crime issues,” McCarthy said.
Claypool emphasized that the new officers will supplement, and not replace, the existing police Public Transit Unit and CTA security.
A handful of high-profile attacks and robberies on the CTA system have splashed over the headlines in the past several months. On June 9, Jesse Andersen, the disabled brother of Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, was robbed on a Red Line train near the Chicago Avenue stop as he went to work in the early morning hours.
Andersen said a group accosted him and someone punched him in the mouth, and the suspects made off with his iPod.
The day before that, a rider was robbed and attacked on a Brown Line train near the Chicago Avenue/Franklin Street stop, and had to be hospitalized as a result. The same day in the nighttime hours, two offenders attacked and robbed a woman with her 2-year-old daughter at the Sheridan CTA Red Line stop, and pushed the woman and her daughter down a flight of stairs.
The most infamous incident was in March, when a robber who had just stolen an iPhone on a Brown Line train pushed Sally Katona-King, 68, down the stairs as he escaped through the Fullerton station. The fall resulted in Katona-King’s death.