Lightfoot calls three-year surge in CTA crime ‘totally, fundamentally unacceptable’

Mayor vows to get a handle on it with increased patrols, more surveillance cameras, greater coordination between CTA and CPD.

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There were 458 criminal incidents on CTA buses and trains between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Sun-Times file

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday called a three-year surge in CTA crime “totally, fundamentally unacceptable” and vowed to get a handle on it with increased patrols and even more surveillance cameras.

In the one-month period between Thanksgiving and Christmas alone, CTA buses and trains were the scene of 458 criminal incidents, according to Chicago Police. That’s a 24 percent spike from the same period in 2017.

“I was alarmed when I saw what the numbers looked like going back to 2017, and we’re gonna fundamentally turn that around. The public transportation system has to be safe,” she said.

“We cannot have a circumstance where people are fearful — particularly on the Red Line where the biggest challenge is — of getting on public transportation because we’re not taking the necessary steps to keep the community safe. We’re not gonna accept that.”

Lightfoot said she has talked to both the Chicago Police Department and the CTA about the need to work together “more cooperatively.”

“We’re looking at whether or not we need to add more foot patrols, more cameras. But whatever it takes, we’re gonna turn these numbers around because we have to.. People have to … get to their destination in safety.”

CTA spokesman Brian Steele could not be reached for comment.

Under a massive reorganization of the Chicago Police Department announced this week by interim Supt. Charlie Beck, responsibility over the CTA and all of mass transit in Chicago would be placed under the control of a new counter-terrorism unit.

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

Lightfoot is equally displeased with overall January crime numbers.

Murders are up 45.5 percent, from 22 killings a year ago to 32 this month. Shootings are up 30.2 percent, from 96 shootings during January 2019 to 125 shootings this year.

Beck has blamed cold temperatures that averaged 10 degrees lower a year ago as well as a series of “very high-profile domestic homicides that added to the body count.”

Lightfoot said the January spike cannot be explained away by the milder temperatures. Nor can the spike be excused by what she called “a set of very unusual domestic issues,” including a young woman who killed two of her children.

“Even if you take those to the side, the numbers are much higher than what we expected and they’re higher than a five-year average. That’s certainly not acceptable,” the mayor said.

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