Beefed-up Security Helps Reduce Chicago Transit's Crime

Aug. 8--Beefing up security at high-traffic rail stations and identifying crime trends helped reduce the number of reported thefts and robberies on the Chicago Transit Authority during the first half of the year, Chicago police officials said Monday.

That's good news for the CTA and police, who had seen a 5.3 percent increase in crime on the Chicago portion of the transit system in 2005 from 2004, according to Dennis Rayl, commander of the police's public transportation section.

This year's drop in crime occurred at a time when the number of riders continued to increase, rising 1.4 percent during the first five months of 2006 compared with the same period last year, according to CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney. The CTA has not yet released figures on the number of riders in June.

Rayl attributed the decrease in thefts and robberies to a number of factors, including the CTA's ongoing efforts to improve station lighting and its use of security cameras. The CTA is installing a network of surveillance cameras at its rail stations and has had its entire bus fleet equipped with cameras since 2003. New rail cars, which should start arriving in late 2009, will have cameras on them.

But the most significant factor is the police's ongoing analysis of data that has helped them identify trends, like a string of robberies last year on the Green Line's Lake Street branch, and dispatch officers to hot spots.

Police also have worked with CTA security to beef up patrols of high-traffic areas, like the Loop, where the large number of people make it a prime spot for pickpockets, Rayl said.

"People will go where there's an opportunity to commit a crime," he added.

The efforts helped reduce the number of reported thefts--the most common crime--to 544 for the first six months of 2006. That's a 6.7 percent decrease compared with the 583 thefts reported during the same period last year, officials said.

Reported robberies were down 34 percent during the first half of the year, dropping to 63 from 96.

Other reported crimes decreased slightly or stayed the same.

The number of reports of aggravated battery, which involves a weapon, dropped to 37 from 38 during the first half of the year.

Meanwhile, aggravated assaults remained the same at 21.

The number of reported criminal sexual assaults--2 --was the same as last year. After reviewing reports, Rayl said neither incident in 2006 occurred on CTA property, though the victims came into contact with the assailants while riding the train or waiting for the bus.

Copyright (c) 2006, Chicago Tribune Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News


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