Chicago police unveil new strategies to make CTA transit safer

With violent crime on public transit making headlines in Chicago, police say they are doubling down on efforts to make trains and buses safe.

On Wednesday, CPD invited FOX 32 Chicago to ride along on the CTA to show some of the steps they’re taking, along with new technology.

We joined a large group of transit officers riding a Red Line train to the South Side, including Officer Warren Weaver.

"We look for high value crimes. Gangs, drugs, batteries," Weaver said.

A recent count by the Chicago Sun-Times found 145 officers assigned to the transit detail. That's about 90 fewer than before the pandemic.


But police said they are working to increase that number, though they won’t say exactly by how much.

"We’re looking at how we can move resources to address these issues," said Ernest Cato III, Chief of the Chicago Police Counter-Terrorism Bureau. "And it’s happening and it’s going to continue to happen until we actually get to the number where we need to be to ensure the safety of all."

Through the end of July, there were 488 attacks on Chicago’s transit system. That's the highest number since 2011. At the same time, ridership has been cut in half by covid, which may be one of the reasons criminals are emboldened.

"As ridership does come up, we’ll see a lot of the conflicts go down," said CTA Vice President of Security Kevin Ryan. "Because there’s more people on the trains to offset that."

We got a look inside the police department's surveillance center for the transit system. Officers working 24/7 monitor citywide police radio, and in seconds can activate any of 36,000 cameras on CTA property.

"Within seconds of the call being dispatched, we will have eyes on the location," said Joe Bird, Commander of CPD's Public Transportation Section. "So it’s real time intelligence going to the scene."

The cameras have helped transit cops make more arrests. But for the cops on trains and buses, it’s all about preventing crime before it happens.

"What we look for specifically, when there’s groups congregating," said Transit Sgt. Nicholas Orlando. "Before anything pops off."

Cato made this promise to Chicago commuters: "We’re gonna ride with you. We will be there with you. We’re gonna create an environment where people feel more safe to get on our trains and buses. And it’s happening as we speak today."