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More rail cameras lead to fewer thefts, assaults, CTA says

The CTA has completed installation of more than 800 cameras in rail cars, a security expansion that coincides with a 26 percent decrease in serious crimes in the first three months of 2014 across the transit system, compared with the same period a year ago.

Between January and March 2014, the CTA says the number of crimes declined across these categories:

  • Thefts, which had been on the rise in receCT rahm-claypool-train05.JPGnt years as more customers own personal electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets, have declined 23 percent overall.
  • Thefts have fallen 25 percent on buses, 16 percent on trains and 19 percent on rail platforms.
  • Robbery decreased by 38 percent on average for all CTA transit.
  • Aggravated battery decreased by 44 percent on average for all CTA transit.
  • Crimes on CTA rail platforms decreased 31 percent and fell 22 percent on CTA trains from January through March.
  • Crimes on buses declined 22 percent.

The decline in crimes coincides with the significant expansion of security cameras on the CTA.

Since late 2011, the CTA has doubled its rail station camera network to more than 3,600 cameras and last year began a $13.9 million program to install more than 3,300 360-degree cameras on 834 rail cars.

The state-of-the-art cameras can record and store high-resolution images from all angles, increasing the ability to identify criminal suspects. Similar cameras are installed on the CTA’s newest generation of rail cars currently being added to CTA’s rail fleet, and all CTA buses have multiple security cameras as well, with the full complement of cameras totaling more than 23,000.

Some skeptics have noted that the bitter cold and snowy weather in the first three months of the year no doubt contributed to the crime drop. So it will be interesting to see if this pattern continues throughout the year.

The CTA notes that "crime is extremely low on the CTA system. Out of more than 120 million rides in January through March, there have been just 483 crimes on the system—or 4 crimes per every million rides."

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    I am one of the skeptics. I want to see the stats of the June-August period.
    Some decline is probably due to the cameras, but I think the weather plaid a major role in the declining of the crimes. Definitely, more than the adoption of the cameras.

  • The most common characteristic of all police states is intimidation by surveillance. Citizens know they are being watched and overheard. Their mail is being examined. Their homes can be invaded.~Vance Packard

  • In reply to johnpseudonym:

    The point of the depiction of the telescreens in Orwell's "1984" was that you were being watched in your own home so there was no zone of privacy. Cameras on the CTA watch people in a public place, where there could already be dozens of eyes. Your fellow passengers are something of a deterrent to crime; do you consider their presence to be intimidation? Or do you feel less safe when you happen to be alone on a platform? Cameras only make the identification of the criminal more certain.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    That's all fine and dandy, but Vance Packard was an AP reporter, writer and social critic and has nothing to do with George Orwell's fiction. He was commenting on the threat to privacy in modern day America. Cameras only make certain that the privacy rights of all Americans are violated. There are 23,000 cameras all over our city. Do you really see homicide rates dropping?

    They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

  • In reply to johnpseudonym:

    I'm all for liberty. But the distinction between a public place and a private place is the same as it always was, whether in 1791, 1957 or now. Packard was clearly discussing private mail and private homes, not the taking of pictures of open behavior in public places, which is something his fellow newspapermen were doing and is the topic of today's post. The security of our persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches or other invasions should be the real concern, as there are even more ways to encroach than in Packard's time. You'd do better to challenge the real threat--the obscuring of the difference between public and private--instead of contributing to it.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    That is correct. The 4th Amendment essentially goes to the curtilage, or essentially you have a right of privacy behind your fence or door, not on the street, and certainly not on public transit property.

    Bromides don't establish anything.

  • Those cameras are needed to spy on the motormen/operators who are not cleaning their train.

  • So, again, the metric is "rides," i.e. unlinked trips. I wonder how many "rides" there are at 2 a.m.

    I also wonder if the numbers catch the number of rapes immediately outside the station, like what was going on in Rogers Park.

  • In reply to jack:

    For that matter, the rate must have been very low when Blair Holt was shot, because the bus was full of students, compared to whoever was shot near 69th on an fairly empty bus. At least the cameras got both after the fact, but, john, deterred neither.

  • Off topic, but what has happened to the posting of board meetings on CTA site? Nothing since February.

  • In reply to chris:

    There are agendas posted for 5/14.

    There are ordinances for April, which is the only way CTA indicates what the board rubber stamped.

    If you mean the presentations, nothing since February, but maybe staff figured out that no one on the board can stay awake for them.

    People are figuring out through other things (such as airport noise, the debt, the proposed tax hike for pensions) that transparency is not the Emanuel Administration's suit. To us, it was more obvious with CTA.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yes, I was referring to the presentations and the Construction Reports, etc.

  • Someone's fudging the numbers--I don't believe their "statistics". If cameras are so great, why are kids getting shot and killed everyday? Police cameras aren't making those stats go down either.

  • In reply to mulder42:

    On your more general point, I guess it is whether one believes McCarthy that the numbers are going down, or the Sun-Times needing something to fill the Homicide Watch Chicago part of its website.

    I still think that the real reason for either in the first 3 months of the year is that the bangers don't tend to out as much when it is 14 degrees below.

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