CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago police will deploy 50 additional officers to its public transportation unit next month, and dedicate a team of four detectives to investigate crime on the CTA, in the wake of a recent spate of high-profile violent crimes on the mass transit system.
“Violence on our system is just not going to be tolerated,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Friday morning. “We’re going to do everything that we can to continue pushing forward so that our riders have confidence that the CTA is safe, because it will be safe.”
The 50 additional officers being added to the mass transit unit will bring the total to 250. The extra officers will begin patrolling trains and rail stations on March 4, and will replace a team of SWAT officers that has been deployed to the CTA since last week, according to interim Chicago Police Supt. Charlie Beck.
The superintendent said CTA passengers will soon see more officers riding trains and monitoring train stations.
“We’re going to make platform security one of the primary missions of all of our districts, so you’re going to see them there. You’re going to see them throughout the system, but where we have spikes of crime, where we have incidents of theft, we’re going to put more cops in those locations,” he said.
The department also is building a strategic decision support center – high-tech nerve centers already in place at most districts – at the Central District station in the South Loop, where officers will be able to access the CTA’s network of 32,000 surveillance cameras in real time.
That center is expected to be open by the spring, Beck said.
“By monitoring those cameras, we can make sure that if crime does occur on a CTA line that we solve it quickly,” he said.
Beck said the cameras also will allow police to be more proactive about crime on the CTA. He said the department’s strategic decision support centers already have proven successful at helping police prevent crime by using data analysis, gunshot sensors, live surveillance camera feeds, and trained crime analysts to predict when crime might happen.
“They don’t just go to a camera when there’s a crime has occurred in the past, they monitor them real-time, and they’ll run real-time anti-crime missions where they predict crime may occur by monitoring those cameras,” Beck said.
The department also will add a new unit of four detectives dedicated solely to investigating CTA-related crimes. Beck said the detectives also will focus on monitoring “recidivists” who have repeatedly committed crimes on the CTA. He also suggested the courts should start taking steps to ban criminals convicted of repeated crimes on the CTA from using the mass transit system.
“There are a number of entities within the country that use either temporary restraining orders, or use agreements in settlement agreements on people that are convicted to keep people from riding the trains. It’s obviously not something that I can do as the police department, but it is something that the courts can do as part of a settlement agreement,” he said.
Concerns have heightened about violent crime on the CTA in recent weeks, after one person was killed and another was wounded in a CTA tunnel in the Loop on Feb. 17, a 35-year-old man was stabbed in the arm at the 79th Street stop on the Red Line on Feb. 10, a 30-year-old man was shot in the back while exiting a Blue Line train at the UIC-Halsted stop on Feb. 5. Torrez Cathery, 23, has been charged in the shooting in the CTA tunnel. Musbau Hamzat, 37, has been charged with aggravated battery in the Red Line stabbing, and 31-year-old Patrick Waldon has been charged with aggravated battery and armed robbery in the Blue Line shooting.
The mayor and the superintendent said overall crime on the CTA is down slightly this year. However, serious crimes on the CTA trains and stations have jumped dramatically in the past five years – from 1,187 in 2015, climbing steadily to 2,345 last year.
“Of course our goal is a crime-free system. Now, that may be an unattainable goal, but that is our goal. So we will continue to address violent crime in the way that we have,” Beck said. “We have been incredibly successful at solving these crimes, but that’s not enough. We want to prevent these crimes. I don’t want people to feel secure that their perpetrator will be caught, I want people to feel secure that they’ll be free from crime.”
The additional transit officers being deployed to the CTA will not be new hires, but will be redeployed as part of the department’s earlier plan to reorganize its various bureaus.
“It’s not just about more cops, although more cops is necessary in this system, when you look at what’s deployed nationally for major transportation. It’s about using cops smarter. It’s about knowing where cops are in the system so that we can protect them, but also so that we can deploy them based on crime patterns.”
One the new transit officers begin patrolling the CTA, the SWAT officers deployed to the system last week will go back to their normal duty, according to Beck.
“I think it was a good statement about the values of CPD and what we think is important. You know, when you put your most expensive asset in a location, then you are displaying what you value, and that is my most expensive asset,” Beck said.