CTA has more surveillance cameras than city of Chicago

The city of Chicago has 1,260 blue-light police surveillance cameras deployed throughout the city.

The Chicago Transit Authority has 1,800 cameras on its buses and at train stations.


Chicago Tribune photo by Antonio Perez

Who knew the CTA had more cameras than the city?

The American Civil Liberties Union calls Chicago the most-watched city in the country.

Does that bother you?

Meanwhile, crime on the CTA went up in 2010 compared to 2009. Read the exclusive CTA Tattler report.


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  • So what does the data say? Is crime down? Personally I'd like to see more red light cameras - at least until the clowns stop running red lights in front of me.

  • Good question Gary. I just added a link to my report on crime on the CTA in 2010:


  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Most peculiar. I would not have expected that. You would think that the criminals would behave better in front of the camera.

  • In reply to LucidRealty:

    Their behavior doesn't change because they know, by and large, the cameras aren't being monitored or recorded. (Unlike red light cameras, as you pointed out above, or bus cameras, as pointed out below.)

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    The cameras show views of public places. Which is where you need for strangers to be deterred from doing you harm and caught if they do. The camera does not introduce the factor of being on public view, which is already the case in a public place--it just makes a more reliable record.

    I wish everyone getting in a panic about "Big Brother" would go back and read "1984." The big thing in that dystopian scenario was that you couldn't be private in your own home because of the presence of a "telescreen" that covered every corner (and BTW also broadcast propaganda at all hours). I think we still have a pretty bright line drawn there, what with the Third and Fourth amendments in our Bill of Rights (Orwell was British) and with Google getting in trouble for taking street shots that looked in windows.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Sounds like the recent changes to the Emergency Alert System (aka "Obama Everywhere").

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    The numbers are deceptive in that each bus has like 7 cameras. In fact the number can't be correct, because with 1700 buses, that would only be one camera per bus (assuming that there are also cameras at the 144 train stations).

    And with regard to what the previous commenter said, CTA has said for a while that the bus cameras only record what's happened, so the police can review it later. They eventually resulted in the arrest of the guy with the multicolored sweater who shot the girl in the bus, but unless there is a real time link, such as that connected to Bus Tracker, they aren't going to prevent anything.

    However, for about the second time this week, I think you have been overwhelmed by the not so meaningful.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Maybe an interested investigative reporter would like to find out how any of these surveillance cameras are legal under the article of the Criminal Code of 1961 on eavesdropping and the 1994 amendatory law which further defined a "conversation."

    With individuals having been charged for violating this law by recording Police in public, then it seems like a little reciprocity is in order. Since there are no provisions for implied consent and the law requires consent of both parties, aren't the CTA cameras, red light cameras, police surveillance cameras used prior to a crime and all private surveillance cameras that record people in public places without their consent illegal?

    It sure seems that way.

  • In reply to jnathan:

    Both your points are completely fallacious.

    The cameras are in public places. A 4th Amendment issue arises only if they view the curtilage, i.e. some one's private home or yard. That issue was raised with regard to the city ones, but would be wholly irrelevant with regard to bus cameras.

    Also, since the bus cameras only pick up images, there is no eavesdropping. Supposedly the city ones pick up gunshot sounds, but not conversations.

    Let me also assure you that an investigative reporter, especially at the Tribune, has no more legal training than you do.

  • In reply to jack:


    After reading your response two things are clear. First, that I incorrectly suggested that State the eavesdropping laws from 1961, 1994, 2007 and 2010 included non-auditory recordings as conversations. They don't and I was absolutely wrong on that point.

    Second is that you incorrectly assumed my objection was one of our mutual 4th amendment rights being infringed. It isn't. Rather, I was pointing out that, in the case of conversations being recorded, the recording is illegal without both parties consent in Illinois.

    Therefore, if the public surveillance does not record conversations, you are correct, there is no eavesdropping. If, however, they do record conversations, whether in public or not, it is eavesdropping under current law and requires both parties consent.

    So, in point of fact, only one of my points was fallacious. The other may prove to be contrived, but not fallacious.

    Keep up the good work.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    I would just like to point out that cameras do absolutely nothing to deter crime, and in most cases do nothing even to solve a crime retroactively. Take a friend of mine, who was mugged in London. Two separate cameras caught the crime (which I edited into a hilarious video for him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeVmRBY4dKk). But despite all that, he was never identified, much less caught.

    Cameras will not stop crime.

  • I actually like the cameras on the buses.
    Because it's also calmed down most of the hot headed bus drivers!
    Now there's a record of who started it when there's an argument between a driver & passenger.
    The drivers know they're up shit creek without a paddle if they lie & the camera catches them at it.

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