Amid a double-digit uptick in violent crime along Chicago Transit Authority train and bus lines this year, city officials say they’ll be adding additional officers and security guards along transit routes.
Police Superintendent David Brown said Wednesday that his department will be reassigning officers to begin serving on teams that will patrol the CTA’s Red and Blue train lines, as well as other train and bus routes.
“Officers will be visible and our department will work with the CTA to analyze trends and deploy resources at optimal times and locations,” Brown said during a press conference at the Chicago Red Line station. “Individuals engaging in criminal activity on public transportation, or anywhere in the city for that matter, will be dealt with.”
According to Brown, these officers will be reassigned from the Counterterrorism Bureau and will focus on responding to gang and narcotics crimes on the transit system, as well as patrolling the busy rail lines.
On top of additional officers, the CTA’s Board of Directors on Wednesday also approved a $71 million proposal for unarmed security guards to patrol trains and buses.
“This contract … will more than double the resources that we have for private security services and will give us the tools that we need to really expand our visibility on our system and hopefully start to address the concerns that we hear from our customers about their personal safety,” CTA President Dorval Carter, Jr. told the board Wednesday morning.
CTA riders have complained in recent months about an increase in smoking, drinking, unruly passengers and other problems. The three-year deal, with the option to extend for two additional years, is with the firms Monterrey Security — which already works with CTA — and Inter-Con Security. Carter said the guards are trained in de-escalation and can call for Chicago Police officers if they see a security problem.
While CPD patrols and interventions are a key part of the agency’s safety strategy, Carter said unarmed security guards can serve as deterrents and defuse potentially dangerous situations. He added that the new guards will begin showing up within the next few weeks, and when they do, they’ll be operating around the clock, seven days a week.
They won’t be able to make arrests, but Carter said the guards will serve as extra eyes and ears to spot and address "inappropriate behavior."
Violent crime along the CTA is up 17% year-to-date over the same period in 2021, officials said Wednesday.
The city’s announcement comes a day after a 25-year-old man was shot on a Red Line train near 63rd Street. According to police, the man had been in a verbal altercation with four people, one of whom allegedly pulled out a handgun and began firing shots. He was struck twice in the stomach and taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center in critical condition.
The CPD has also highlighted several other robberies and assaults along CTA train lines in recent weeks.
A 17-year-old boy was charged with felony robbery last month after he allegedly punched a 31-year-old woman on a Blue Line train and stole her phone.
Police issued a community alert Sunday following an attack on a Green Line passenger last month. A suspect stole that victim’s phone on a CTA platform, and when they tried to get it back, they were beaten by a man and woman.
That same day, the CPD issued a separate alert following a similar assault last week on the State Street Red Line platform.
CTA Board Chair Lester Barclay said safety issues are paramount as the agency tries to boost its pandemic-diminished ridership numbers.
“I’d like to see us get the word out about our efforts with security,” Barclay said. “I think the city needs to know what we’re doing, that we’re making strong efforts, that we’re … having people arrested, that we’re prosecuting people, that we’re holding people accountable. This security is just so critical to the future of the agency.”
But fellow board member the Rev. Bernard Jakes said while he agrees more needs to be done, the agency can’t simply rely on punitive measures to tackle security issues and rider misconduct.
“Something needs to happen, because (crime) is a city problem, it is a national problem,” he said. “My concern is that the message doesn’t go out that we need to arrest our way out of this, that CTA is being proactive in prevention (and) intervention.”