CHICAGO (CBS) — High-profile violent crimes plagued Chicago Transit Authority property in the weeks leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, but since then, CTA ridership has plummeted.

So what about the violent crime?

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, overall crime is down during the pandemic. But violent crimes on the CTA have remained consistent despite the nearly empty train cars and buses.
So we’re asking why.

Violent crime on the CTA dominated the headlines in February.

Two men and a woman were shot in the tunnel between the Red and Blue Lines at Jackson Boulevard on Feb. 17. One of the men died.

There were also stabbings and armed robberies, and it prompted action by the city.

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.

On Feb. 4, a street performer was stabbed at the Jackson Red Line station.

The spate of crime prompted Chicago Police to bolster its Mass Transit Unit with 50 additional officers, and dedicate a team of four detectives to investigate crime on the CTA.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck approach,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in announcing the plan.

But then in March, COVID-19 shut down the city and ridership declined dramatically.

On Wednesday, the CTA said their volume was down about 80 percent since the beginning of the stay-at-home order.

The good news? Overall crime dropped by 46 percent.

But reports for violent crimes – homicide, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, robbery, and criminal sexual assault – have remained constant.

In April alone, police responded to Blue Line stabbing, a Red Line shooting, and a former U.S. Marine killed by a train after being pushed onto the tracks at the Jackson station.

So why did the violent crime persist? We turned to the Director of the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago to explain.

“When less number of people are out and about, there probably is still some sense of confidence on the part of the perpetrators to what they can get away with,” said Dr. P.S. Sriraj.

Sriraj said joblessness could also be a factor.

Chicago Police said their Mass Transit Unit has continued to focus on and respond to incidents on the CTA throughout the pandemic.

Megan Hickey