Volunteer ‘violence interrupters’ to patrol Red Line trains Friday

Activist Tio Hardiman calls on the city and CPD to collaborate with volunteers amid rising crime on CTA trains.

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Tio Hardiman, founder and executive director of Violence Interrupters, speaks at a press conference at the Sox-35th Street Red Line Station announcing plans for making travel on Red Line trains safer for passengers. Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

Tio Hardiman, founder of Violence Interrupters, said at least 10 unarmed security guards will ride the CTA Red Line on Friday to curb crime.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Teams of volunteer security officers and martial artists will ride the Chicago Transit Authority Red Line on Friday, on the lookout for crime on the city’s busiest L trains, activist Tio Hardiman said Wednesday.

Talking to reporters at the Red Line’s 35th Street/Bronzeville platform across from Guaranteed Rate Field, Hardiman said rising crime on CTA trains demanded action from community groups, and he called on Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Police Department to collaborate with volunteer patrols.

Hardiman said at least 10 unarmed security guards —five on northbound trains to Howard and five on southbound trains to 95th Street —will ride the Red Line for an eight-hour shift starting at 11 a.m. Friday.

Hardiman, who said a friend recently was injured in an assault on the Red Line, said he hoped the city would work with him to identify train lines and problem time periods to continue the eight-hour shifts on an ongoing basis.

“We want to be proactive and preemptive. We don’t want things to get bad before we do something, things are already getting bad,” Hardiman said. “Put yourself in the the shoes of some working-class person, getting up to go to work and someone gets up in your face on the train.”

Crime has increased on CTA during the pandemic despite steep declines in ridership, prompting the CPD to announce increased staffing in its transit units and a mandate for patrol officers to monitor stations as a regular part of working their beats. As commuters have increasingly returned to work downtown, CPD and CTA officials this spring again announced more officers and private security will be patrolling trains, buses and platforms. Transit union officials have called on CTA to bring back conductors aboard trains to further beef up security.

CTA announced last month it was doubling the number of unarmed security guards, and so far has increased staffing from 150 guards working across the system each day to 220, with more to be deployed in coming months, a spokesperson said.

A Chicago police spokesperson urged CTA riders —would-be security volunteers or otherwise —not to step in as vigilantes and instead call 911 if they witness a crime or something suspicious.

“The police do not need private citizens taking law enforcement matters into their own hands,” CPD spokesperson Tom Ahern said.

A CTA spokesperson referred questions to the police department.

Hardiman said his volunteers have been trained to act as “violence interrupters” to deescalate situations, and also will be able to direct those with substance abuse problems or people who are homeless to community resources.

Andre “Tank” Hart, a former Marine whose 300 Elite Protection security firm will provide security guards for Friday’s patrols, said his team will not be armed but many are military veterans and champions in martial arts such as jiujitsu and judo. Volunteers from God’s Gorillas, a South Side nonprofit organization, also will ride along.

“Presence is what we want, but they will not stand by” if they witness a crime, Hart said. “You cannot have this much violence and not do something.”

Kaliya Jones said she rides the Red Line from 35th Street to her job downtown most days. When she returned to commuting after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she noticed more homeless people and more misbehavior on trains.

“It feels a lot different than before, there’s just a lot going on and it doesn’t feel as safe,” Jones said. “I try to stay off [the Red Line] if I can. They need to do something.”

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