CHICAGO (CBS) — The fun is over, for the time being, for some DePaul University students who decorated their dorm rooms thanks to the Chicago Transit Authority.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Conway reports, the CTA had been missing close to 200 maps and advertisements that had been mounted inside ‘L’ trains, according to the Chicago Tribune.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Conway reports

But more than 150 maps were recently found and recovered from DePaul student housing, after the DePaulia student newspaper ran a story back on April 20 about students using the maps as decorations.

The DePaulia article by Shannon Shreibak suggested that stealing CTA maps had become a trend at the school. The very headline of the article said the thefts “symbolize a rite of passage.”

“One man’s map is another man’s poster. At least that’s the sentiment among DePaul students. Dorm and apartment walls are often decorated with a collection of stolen maps,” Shreibak wrote. “It seems to be our take on last generation’s abstract portrait hanging over the fireplace.”

The article also named and quoted students who admitted to stealing the maps, and had come up with justifications for doing so.

Freshman Joe Lanzerotti told the DePaulia that students were stealing maps “for the sport of it. It’s like catching PokéMon in real life almost.”

Another, freshman English major Elizabeth Gaughan, told the DePaulia that she stole a CTA map “out of spite” because, Shreibak wrote, Gaughan was worn out from “balancing challenging classes and a college social life.”

The map theft trend had reached the point where each ‘L’ stolen line map had been assigned an informal value.

“According to a survey of students, the Red and Brown lines are among the least valuable because they are the most common lines ridden by DePaul students. The honor of most coveted map, though, is bestowed upon the Yellow Line (which requires taking the Red Line to Howard and then embarking to Skokie) and the cryptic Green Line (because of the air of mystery that surrounds it and its destination),” Shreibak wrote. “But the map that completes every ‘L’ Map collector’s compendium is the official CTA ‘L’ map featuring all of the lines.”

The article quoted student Grace Hanson as being “incredibly excited” upon receiving a Yellow Line map from friends.

Accompanying the DePaulia article were two photos showcasing stolen ‘L’ maps nestled neatly among other posters in students’ dorm rooms.


A stolen CTA map in a DePaul University dorm room. (Credit: Shannon Shreibak/The DePaulia)

In one photo, a stolen Red Line map appeared mounted on a wall with blue electrical tape, sharing a wall with posters showing the cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, the Rolling Stones, Johnny Depp playing a piano, and an assortment of glow-in-the-dark mustaches, among other items. In the other, the wall next to a bunk bed was graced with maps of the Red and Orange lines.

“Stealing ‘L’ maps is not just an activity of thievery that DePaul students happen to enjoy; it’s an entire event,” Shreibak wrote.

But DePaul officials did not find the “event” so amusing.

A subsequent DePaulia article said the university instituted a search following the April 23 story, and students in possession of stolen maps had their names forwarded to the dean of students.

It is not clear whether the students will be disciplined. But the Tribune reports the CTA will not seek any discipline or criminal prosecution against the map thieves.

Spokesman Brian Steele told the Tribune that the CTA appreciates the esteem in which the students hold the agency, but theft cannot be condoned.

Of the recovered maps, 45 will be placed back in trains, but the others were too damaged or outdated to be used again, the Tribune reported.

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