As of this month, the Chicago Transit Authority has installed at least one or more security cameras at all of the 144 el stations in efforts to increase safety to customers and employees.
The cameras were paid for from $22.6 million that the Department of Homeland Security gave to the CTA in 2006. Each and every station now has at least one high-definition security camera up and running. That’s in addition to the thousands of cameras also installed at public schools, on police observation decks and at airports.
“Together, these cameras form the largest wireless camera integration platform in the United States,” Mayor Daley said last month.
Since March 2009, the CTA has increased its surveillance nearly 53 percent, installing 625 new cameras, bringing the total to more than 1,800 installations network wide. Some research, however, indicates that these additions haven’t necessarily been making much of a difference.
According to CTA crime statistics released earlier this year, assaults on platforms have increased 21.1 percent between the beginning of 2009 and 2010, and thefts on platforms have increased even more, by 30 percent, according to the CTA report. Another study by the American Civil Liberties Union analyzed the effectiveness of security cameras in Britain, which has one of the most extensive public surveillance systems in the world.
In 2009, Britain had 4.2 million closed-circuit TV cameras throughout the nation, but the study by the ACLU concluded strongly that video surveillance has had not reduced crime.
Nevertheless, the CTA hasn’t let such data deter it from their plans of having a total of 3,000 cameras installed by the end of the year.
“Having cameras installed at every station is a valuable tool, both for security purposes and from an operations perspective as well,” CTA President Richard Rodriguez said in a press release.
What the riders say
A few Chicagoans interviewed gave their take about the additional cameras.
Maria Hadden, 29, a graduate student at DePaul University said, “I didn’t know there were new surveillance systems. I have no problems with video surveillance in public spaces, but I think it’s extremely important to actively inform the public using those spaces of the surveillance.
DePaul student Anthony Arellano Jr., 29, added, “After living in this city for 10 years I am absolutely certain that there should be video surveillance at the train stations. I find it hard to believe that there hasn’t been this whole time. If you hear some of the stories of eyewitnesses and realize that these are unreported crimes; it makes your teeth cringe. I deeply believe security cameras in public places benefit us as a whole and are imperative in a city like Chicago.”
Alexis Boyan, a 24-year-old leasing agent said the cameras are a little slow to appear.
“I know there are cameras on the platforms but it’s on the trains where they’re needed the most.”
Jeff Kinni, age 25 and a musician added: “I don’t even like using credit cards to be honest. I don’t like the idea of people tracking my every move, so knowing that I’m being watched every time I use the trains is kind of unsettling. I know it’s for safety and all; it’s just where do we draw the line of privacy? Where does it begin or end?”