Chicago union boss calls for Illinois National Guard rollout on CTA

Just two days after New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced plans to deploy the state’s National Guard to help police curb a surge in crime in the Big Apple's subways, calls are being made for another deep blue state to do the same.

Keith Hill, the head of the largest union of Chicago transit workers, said he would welcome Illinois National Guard members conducting bag checks on trains and buses in the Windy City to help boost security and make the system safer.

"The police have got their hands tied with everything that's going on in the city, so any assistance is more than welcome to make passengers, workers, everybody feel safe if they use the system," Hill told CBS News on Friday.

A police SUV is parked outside the Roosevelt CTA station in the Loop on Dec. 19, 2023, in Chicago. (Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images / Getty Images)

"It's still the best way around the city, but the only way people are going to realize that is if they feel safe," said Hill, who is the president of Amalgamated Transit Union 241, which represents Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus drivers in Chicago.

The rate of violent crime on CTA trains dropped in 2023, but it remained above pre-pandemic levels, the Chicago Tribune reported, citing police data. The downward trajectory followed Chicago police and the CTA sending more officers, unarmed security guards and K-9 teams to the train system last year, resulting in a doubling of security costs.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, both Democrats, have not said they are considering deploying the National Guard. Fox News Digital reached out to their respective offices for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Thanks to a provision wedged into this yearís budget under former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, her successor, Brandon Johnson, will be due a 2.24% salary increase along with other city officials. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty

Hill thinks New York’s latest move would work effectively in Chicago. Gov. Hochul on Wednesday announced that 750 members of the National Guard are being deployed to the subways to assist the NYPD with bag searches at entrances to busy train stations. Around 250 New York State and MTA police officers are also being deployed.

The move comes as New York City attempts to curb a near 20% increase in crime levels during the first two months of 2024 compared to the same period last year, according to NYPD data cited by the New York Post.

Hill said Pritzker and Johnson need to bring a sense of safety to the city’s public transit system.

"They need to make riders, the workers, feel comfortable and safe as we move people throughout this city. So something needs to be looked at, and something needs to be done," Hill told CBS.

Gov. J. B. Pritzker speaks during his daily press briefing on COVID-19 in the James R. Thompson Center on Monday, April 6, 2020 in Chicago. (Raquel Zaldivar/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

He said that the inconvenience and time consumption of checking bags would be worth it to enhance safety.

"What's two minutes of having somebody's bag checked?" Hill asked.

"We know for a fact on the bus, people get on with weapons. While asleep, weapons fall out. So a bag check is more than welcome to me, if it makes a person feel safe, it's ensuring that the passengers can get from A to B, we welcome it."