Robberies and thefts increase in CTA system

September 14, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Over the last few years, the number of thefts and robberies on the city's buses and trains has jumped dramatically.

Despite the dangers, CTA officials insist that security is in place to keep riders safe.

Most of the crimes have taken place on train platforms and the trains themselves because it is easy for the thieves to get away. The CTA says that more police and cameras are helping, but the biggest deterrent is self-awareness.

Look around a busy Loop "L" platform and what you see is a lot of technology attached to CTA riders: iPods, cell phones and laptops on trains and buses.

The CTA says all this electronic gear is responsible for an increase in theft and robberies.

"The latest electronic gadgets seem to be of interest for crimes of opportunity," said CTA Safety and Security Chief Amy Kovealan.

The CTA says that not only are thieves stealing those gadgets, they are pickpocketing riders who may be distracted by their iPods and iPhones.

According to police statistics, robberies were up by 77 percent between 2006 and 2009, and thefts increased by 17 percent during that time period.

Some regular riders are not surprised.

"One lady got her purse snatched - I seen that one - I was at a train stop and a guy just grabbed her purse and ran out the door and everybody - stunned," said CTA rider Thomas Hawkins.

The CTA says that despite an increase in crime over recent years, over the summer, crime has dropped. The CTA attributes that drop to an aggressive public awareness campaign.

"We're working on a series of campaigns to raise awareness for customers - we started with pickpocket alert campaign last year, and we're working on one for electronic devices specifically," said Kovealan.

Some riders say ads are not enough to stop thieves.

"If they could see more law enforcement, it might stop them," said CTA rider Kendra Haynes.

While several uniformed and plainclothes Chicago police officers do ride the trains and walk the platforms, the CTA says it's not possible for every bus and train to have security.

The Guardian Angels say they try to pick up the slack.

Michael Fuentes Guardian Angels

"We let people know: you may want to put the headphones or stop text messaging, and definitely want to put the laptop away and not do any work while you're on the trains or the bus," said Michael Fuentes of Guardian Angels.

Very soon on CTA trains and buses, you will see brand-new CTA ads that tell riders exactly the same thing: to put away the iPhones, laptops and iPods, but overall, the message they want to get out is that given the fact there are so many riders on a daily basis, it is still very safe to ride a train or a bus.

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