As 2010 winds to a close, thefts on the CTA remain a big problem.
Thefts on the CTA in Chicago overall have increased 13.5% this year through November compared to the same period last year. CTA Tattler first reported this alarming trend earlier this year. Thefts on trains and buses went up 16.5% this year, with 160 more reported incidents over last year.
Last year through November there were 1,481 total thefts on the CTA, according to Chicago Police statistics reported by Everyblock.com. And this year there were 1,681, or 200 more. Theft locations tracked were CTA trains, buses, platforms, bus stops and garages or other properties.
As many of you -- as well as crime stats -- have reported, thieves mainly target smartphones and iPods. These crimes are really crimes of opportunities. Thieves lurk in train and bus doorways, on the lookout for riders oblivious to their surroundings, totally caught up in the music, game or e-mail on their electronic devices.
Then it's easy for thieves to just snatch, grab and run out the door as it closed behind them.
The proliferation of this crime is very scary and frustrating to many riders and victims. This frustration prompted one rider to start a Facebook group called "We Need Cameras on the CTA Trains NOW." The fiance of the group owner had his iPhone stolen prompting her to start the group.
I asked the CTA about cameras on the trains and the whole subject of safety. This is what a spokesperson told me:
Cameras have long been a primary part of the CTA's efforts to provide a safe and secure environment for its employees and customers.
Since late 2003, CTA's entire bus fleet has been equipped with security cameras.
Presently, there are more than 1800 cameras at rail stations -at least one at every station. Thanks to grants from the Department of Homeland Security, we are in the process of installing additional cameras at stations.
Due to a fiber optic cable link established between the CTA and the Office of Emergency Management and Communication in 2005, live images from CTA rail stations can be viewed by the OEMC/ Chicago Police Department.
CTA's current rail cars do not have security cameras; however, the agency is in the midst of a pilot to determine the feasibility of retrofitting the current fleet cars with cameras. The pilot is evaluating the level of complexity involved in installing equipment in older cars and the ability to integrate the video system into CTA's existing video management system. Data gathered from the pilot will determine the final scope of installation across the fleet and outline the parameters for the performance of the equipment on each rail car series. The FTA is funding the pilot and Department of Homeland Security funding is available to retrofit of a portion of the existing fleet once we work out all the technical issues.
In addition, as has previously been announced, the CTA is ordering new rail cars for the first time in nearly 20 years. The new rail cars will come equipped with cameras. The prototypes of these cars are undergoing testing to determine how they perform when operating in the conditions that CTA's rail fleet is subject to throughout the year. Testing is scheduling to run through the spring. The cars must successfully complete testing before the CTA will finalize the order of the remaining 396 rail cars so until testing is complete we won't have a firm timeline on production/delivery of the bulk of our order.
In sum, the CTA has been integrating cameras into its system over the past decade and steps are already underway to add cameras to the rail fleet.
We CTA riders also have responsibility for our own safety. We should:
- Be aware of our surroundings.
- Watch out for our belongings.
- Report crime - with detailed descriptions of offenders - to the police.