LAKEVIEW — In response to increased crime on CTA trains and buses, Chicago Police beginning Sunday are deploying more officers to the transit system, including a more visible presence at the Belmont “L” stop.
The Chicago Police Public Transportation unit will have approximately 10 to 15 additional officers stationed on the trains and buses starting Sunday, according to Chicago Police Public Transportation Cmdr. Cindy Sam.
This comes after the department added over 40 officers to the Public Transporation unit this past summer. Overall, around 200 officers are now patrolling on trains and busses, or 60 to 70 per shift, Sam said.
Additionally, the Chicago Police’s Town Hall (19th) District will increase its presence outside of the Belmont “L” stop, one of the busiest stations in the system.
Officers in the 19th District will ride trains and “increase their visibility” at the Belmont “L” stops and other stations within the district, said Sgt. Rocco Alioto, a police spokesman.
Alioto said the department will also rely on video surveillance and predictive data analysis to respond to incidents that may occur system-wide.
Crime on the CTA has become increasingly concerning, with various media outlets reporting a spike in crime on the trains and buses between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2019, compared to that same period in 2018.
Sam revealed the increase in the CTA police presence during a community policing meeting Wednesday in front of about 100 Lakeview residents at the 19th District police station. She and other Chicago Police Department officials spent much of the meeting addressing the issue of increased crime on the trains and buses.
During the meeting, Sam tried to reassure audience members who expressed safety concerns about riding the system.
“One million people ride the CTA, and over 99 percent of them get to and from their destitination safely,” she said.
“The CTA is safe to ride,” she added in a comment that was received with some boos in the audience.
The officers at the CAPS meeting said that video surveillance and data analysis was key to addressing transit crime because of manpower limitations.
“We’re working with a finite number of resources, so we try to put the personnel where the crimes are happening,” Sam said.
“Unfortunately these crimes are happening at all hours, so it’s not easy to pinpoint,” 19th Dist Cmdr. Chris Papaioannou said. “We’re out here doing what we can with what we’re given.”
But some in the audience said that more consistent police presence on the buses, trains, train platforms and station entrances would act as a more potent deterrent.
Kathryn Masterson, a Lakeview resident who attended the meeting, was assaulted while she was leaving the Belmont “L” station on Dec. 27. She was walking out of the station with her husband at about 10 p.m. when she was punched in the back of the head twice by a man.
“He didn’t steal anything, he just punched me in the back of the head,” said Masterson, who said the man ran off after her husband confronted him.
Masterson filed a police report, but hasn’t heard back about possible suspects.
“I have no idea if police have video,“ she said. “But if police had been there it wouldn’t have happened. Having better police presence between the entrances and platforms would make people feel safer.”