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Story misses the mark on CTA, crime



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Updated: April 1, 2013 11:49AM

Tuesday’s front-page story (“Hide Your iPhones”) left the inaccurate impression that crime against customers at CTA rail stations has been rocketing upward and that security cameras have been ineffective in addressing crime. Both suggestions are false and misleading.

Though overall reported crime was up in 2012, it isn’t until halfway into the story that a reader learns the most common crime is “deceptive practice” (typically fare evasion), and that it jumped 41 percent in 2012 — the biggest contributor to the jump in overall crime. While a crime, fare evasion does not directly impact the safety and security of customers..

The reason that number jumped so notably? A strategic focus by the Chicago Police Department to stop more serious crime from occurring — the “broken windows” theory of policing that focuses on stopping minor crimes before they become more serious. The Sun-Times reports this halfway through the story, long after readers passed a headline that read “criminals strike more at CTA rail stations.” Further, the story makes no mention of the effectiveness of security cameras in helping capture criminals. In 2012 alone, camera images were used in the arrests of at least 144 offenders — arrests that might not have occurred absent camera images, and that in many cases included individuals charged with numerous crimes.

The story does mention the most notable crime statistic from 2012: Violent crimes on the rail system were down 30 percent. Both Chicago Police and the CTA continue to focus on reducing this number even further. As the story also reported, thefts of smartphones and electronic devices are on the rise, mirroring a national trend and the explosion in popularity of mobile devices. Both Chicago Police and the CTA are expanding strategies to address the issue, including increasing customer awareness of the trend.

Safety and security are the CTA’s No. 1 priority. Our commitment is demonstrated in another fact that didn’t appear in the Sun-Times story: In 2012, the CTA provided 545 million rides; in 2012, 7,700 crimes were reported systemwide — many of which (such as vandalism or theft of CTA property) don’t directly impact the safety or security of customers. That means .0014% of CTA rides involved any kind of crime — a very low number, but one we’re continually looking to improve.

Forrest Claypool, CTA president

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