The CTA said that it spent $1 million last year in cleaning and repairs because of vandalism and graffiti. So, the agency sent out a warning Tuesday that all passengers are always being watched, including teens and children, and if they commit the crime, parents may be on the hook.
CTA officials say a camera captured this 15-year-old on a CTA Blue Line train with his friends, and cameras continued to roll as he pulled a spray can out of his bag and tagged the inside. He was later arrested and charged with criminal defacement of property.
That arrest is part of a new crackdown on vandalism and graffiti using the network of CTA cameras on trains, busses and station platforms to catch vandals in the act.
If the suspects are minors and can't afford to pay the cost of the cleanup, then the CTA will file lawsuits against the parents.
"In most cases the minors themselves simply don't have the ability to pay what could be a bill of $2,000, $3,000. The law provides us the ability to do this," said Brian Steele, CTA spokesperson.
Last month the CTA filed four lawsuits against the parents of minors for over $13,000 and ABC7 Eyewitness News obtained a copy of a fifth lawsuit against 21-year-old, Joseph Zapata, for more than $14,000 in damage. He was allegedly caught on camera vandalizing an Orange Line train.
This is the room where CTA security can watch those videos and see those images. They have access to over 15,000 cameras and can see everything from the Garfield Station on the Red Line, to the Loop area at Madison and Wabash.
The images captured here are used to make the arrests. There have been 60 of them since January - already more than last year - and most of them are minors.
"Anyone who is considering graffiti on a CTA bus or rail car, we advise them, don't do it. Our cameras are watching you will be caught. And we will seek to recover the damages from you," said Steele.
Three years ago, the CTA started installing security cameras at various stations, facilities and on vehicles. Now there are thousands of cameras across the city. A lot of the newer rail cars were built with cameras already installed, and they were recently put into the older cars, too.