The Chicago Police Department reports that violent crime on CTA trains has dipped, while thefts and robberies continue to soar.
CTA robberies have skyrocketed a staggering 77 percent from 2006 to 2009, according to Chicago Police data. Theft is up 17 percent. And even though rider-ship has only increased 0.4 percent within the first six months of 2010, overall crime had risen 12 percent by August.
The trend is tied to a common ploy of pick-pocketing, CTA riders say. Pickpocket crimes on trains and L platforms have increased 16 percent, and on buses 54 percent, since the end of 2009, according to EveryBlock.com-a national web site that offers local news in cities including Chicago- and Chicago police crime statistics.
EveryBlock.com also shows that 464 pickpocket incidents have already been reported in 2010 as opposed to the 409 reported for all of 2009. Jackson Blue Line street performers Nate Williams and his partner who goes by “Solo” said they see it happen every day.
“I’ve seen guys get their pockets cut off with razors,” Williams said. “I watch it happen all day and the cops don’t see it.”
Solo added that he was targeted by the same strategy. “I fell asleep on the train, came off, put my hand in my pocket and it came out the bottom,” he said.
The agency recommends keeping belongings close and carrying wallets in a front pocket while commuting. It also encouraged riders to avoid sleeping or becoming engrossed in their phones and music players, and to avoid standing by the doors where a thief can make a quick getaway.
The CTA has expanded its surveillance network by 53 percent since 2009 by placing at least one camera at every L stop and, with the support of federal Homeland Security funds, plans to install multiple cameras at each L stop 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.
But cameras do have their limitations. Videos, for instance, are usually recorded over within two days, so unless police ask for it right away, valuable footage can be lost.
CTA rider Michelle Dosen said she tries to take mass transit less since a friend had her credit card stolen on the L two years ago. “Halloween night she got a call from her credit card company saying she had fraudulent charges,” Dosen recalled. “She had her credit card stolen and she didn’t even realize it until she got the call.”
CTA officials were not available for comment for this story by press time.