SWAT officers dispatched to the CTA to get handle on recent spike in violent crime

Interim Chicago Police Supt. Charlie Beck described the officers as the “best and the brightest” the CPD has to offer and said it’s just a temporary plan. Beck and Mayor Lori Lightfoot plan to unveil a more extensive CTA security plan next week.

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Chicago police officers patrol the Jackson Red Line platform on Friday.

Chicago police officers patrol the Jackson Red Line platform on Friday.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

SWAT team officers described by Interim Supt. Charlie Beck as the “best and the brightest” in the Chicago Police Department started riding CTA trains Friday to get an immediate handle on mass transit violence.

Beck said he and Mayor Lori Lightfoot plan to unveil a more extensive CTA security plan next week. It will call for “a vastly increased presence” that includes “some technology” and “some participation by the CTA,” he said.

But to underscore the urgency of the problem, Beck announced an extraordinary temporary step, effective Friday.

“We’re gonna be putting additional police resources onto the train lines, including SWAT officers. Not SWAT officers in full tactical gear. But SWAT officers that are the best and the brightest of my police officers to make sure that the trains are safe,” Beck said, after joining the mayor atWendell Phillips Academy High School, 244 E. Pershing Rd., for a related crackdown on gun violence impacting young people.

“That is just an interim step until the mayor and I announce the complete plan. But I think it’s important because, as everybody knows, 1.6 million Chicagoans ride the transportation system every day, and all of us need to feel safe. And the young people [who] ride the transportation system need to know that they will not be victims of crime and that they will be safe in their journeys.”

Beck’s massive reorganization of the police department shifted responsibility over the CTA and all of mass transit to a new counter-terrorism unit.

Beck has told the Chicago Sun-Times the unit would be staffed by “multiple hundreds” ofofficers currently assigned to the detective and organized crime bureaus as well as the bomb unit, SWAT, canine and intelligence-gathering teams.

Chicago police officers patrol the Jackson Red Line platform on Friday.

Chicago police officers patrol the Jackson Red Line platform on Friday.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

On Thursday, a 23-year-old man with 22 prior arrests was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm in connection with a triple shooting on the CTA Monday that left a man dead and two others wounded. Two babies — 6-month-old twins — were nearby.

On Feb. 4, Mike Malinowski, a 26-year-old musician performing in the Red Line station at Jackson, was wounded in a stabbing after a woman attacked him. She said his guitar was giving her a headache, according to Cook County prosecutors.

The day after Malinowski was attacked, a man was shot in a robbery on the Blue Line at the CTA’s UIC-Halsted stop. A 31-year old man was arrested for allegedly shooting the victim as they struggled over his backpack. Police are still seeking a second suspect in that shooting.

This year, there have been at least 45 robberies on CTA trains, stations and platforms, according to the city’s crime data portal. Last year, there were 591 robberies on CTA property — the most in five years — the data shows.

Overall crime also has been creeping up on CTA property for the past five years. There were 6,321 reports of crime last year, up from 4,116 in 2015.

There were seven murders over that period on CTA property, the data show.

All of the recent incidents threaten to undermine Lightfoot’s efforts to reduce downtown congestion by encouraging people to ride the CTA.

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