Chicago police boost mass transit presence amid crime spike

Police in Chicago are adding dozens of officers to a unit that patrols the city’s mass transit system and beefing up its use of technology to combat the crime that has spiked on platforms and trains in recent months

CHICAGO — A spike in crime on Chicago’s rail system and some recent high profile outbursts of violence has prompted the city’s police department to put 50 more officers in trains and on platforms and assign four detectives to investigate nothing but Chicago Transit Authority crimes, officials announced Friday.

Hours after the new security plan was unveiled, Chicago police said an officer shot a person on the platform of a CTA station in the Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Officials did not immediately reveal the circumstances of the shooting, which forced the shutdown of the station during the afternoon rush hour. The wounded person was taken to a hospital and their condition wasn’t immediately known.

Days before the announcement by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Interim Chicago Police Superintendent Charlie Beck, riders began seeing more police SWAT officers boarding trains and manning platforms on the nation’s second largest public transit system. The additional 50 officers brings the number of officers assigned to the Mass Transit Unit to 250.

The department also announced it will this spring open a Strategic Decision Support Center devoted to the CTA, similar to the ones it already has in police districts around the city. The technology centers allow law enforcement to respond to crime scenes quicker and develop crime-fighting strategies based on the data that’s collected.

Four detectives and a crime analyst will be assigned to the CTA center. They will be able to monitor in real time more than 32,000 cameras installed on every train and bus, in rail stations and elsewhere on CTA property. The department said such focus will allow officers to respond to violent crimes and thefts far quicker than they can now.

Beck said in a statement that the “technology-based policing” that has helped reduce violent crime in Chicago over the past three years will do the same for the CTA.

“With more than 1 million daily riders, the safety and security of the traveling public are extremely important to us,” he said.

Last year, the number of violent crimes, including assault and robbery, on public transport climbed significantly. According to an analysis by the Chicago Tribune, the number of violent crimes on the CTA rail system jumped from 447 in 2018 to 590 last year.

And in recent weeks, concern about passenger safety has only grown in the wake of a shooting in a downtown CTA tunnel that left one person dead and two wounded. Separately, a man was shot in the back at a train stop near the University of Illinois-Chicago, and another man was stabbed at a CTA stop on the city’s South Side.

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