June 24, 2011 In February, the ACLU released a report that said Chicagoan’s are among the most-watched citizens in the United States. The report said Chicago’s more than 1,200 police surveillance cameras, combined with thousands more at public and private buildings and facilities, earned Chicago’s a spot on the list of the most-watched cities in the country.
Last week, in response to the public’s concern over the continuing crime wave, CTA President Forrest Claypool announced increased security measures including doubling the number of CTA surveillance cameras, and the addition of special plain clothes and uniformed law enforcement officers to be added across the eight rail lines to protect the Chicago Transit Authority system.
The latest technology will enhance the distribution of high-resolution digital video cameras capable of recording even unclear facial features from a distance and transmit the images in real-time to the CTA command center.
Highly visible uniformed officer patrols known as “Wolfpacks” will be deployed to deter crime and to assist in the prosecutions of pickpockets, robbers and other criminals. In addition, special units of plain clothes police will nab thieves attempting to steal cell phones and other electronic devices Over the next six months, the 1500 additional surveillance cameras will be installed and connected to a secure network. CTA President Forrest Claypool said
“Using this innovative approach, we will saturate our system with cameras, so that potential criminal activity is recorded no matter where it occurs.”
Officials are not disclosing a full list of station installations, citing not wanting to inform criminals of stations without extensive camera coverage (yet).
So far, in 2011 crime has increased on the CTA, passengers have reportedly been subjected to violent attacks, thefts and robberies according to authorities. Images captured from CTA security cameras have assisted in the arrests of individuals involved in 13 cases so far this year. In 2010, the police made 69 arrests with the help of images pulled from CTA cameras.
Critics of the “London style” cameras argue that the Department of Homeland Security grants are allocated for countering terrorist attacks. Instead, state and local governments are using the high tech equipment for revenue, committing gross violations of an individual’s privacy rights.
One commuter Toni Husbands told ABC 7 Chicago that “Cameras might help catch people, but I doubt it will deter anybody.”
Since 2006, Department of Homeland Security grants have been solely responsible for allowing CTA to make significant technology upgrades to the security and surveillance network, add the necessary security personnel, and enrich training programs for these individuals so they are ready to handle situations that may pose a threat to our system.
In testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security on May 4, 2011 then President of Chicago Transit Authority, Richard L. Rodriguez told lawmakers the CTA provides 1.7 million trips each weekday on our bus and rail network, including the ‘L’ or “elevated” rail service.
“Our latest infrastructure initiative to combat crime and deter terrorism is the installation of high-resolution digital security cameras. DHS funding is being used to equip all 144 CTA rail stations with multiple cameras CTA provides 1.7 million trips each weekday on our bus and rail network, including the ‘L’ or “elevated” rail service networked cameras allow CTA, the Chicago Police Department, and Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communication to gain a clearer picture of an emergency situation and respond accordingly.”
Early in 2010, the CTA reported the completion of a $38 million Morgan Street station and a revamp of the entire security system that resulted in a total of 600 cameras at 73 rail stations paid for by Federal grants. Homeland Security grants will pay $16 million for the latest security upgrades as well.
In spite of all the efforts by former Mayor Daley, crime on Chicago’s trains continues to climb. Thousands of hi-tech security cameras and a new surveillance network are important components, the equipment purchases increase technological preparedness. Daley never got that in order for real-time video to be effective, someone on the other end must be watching and the level of training and skills of the OEMC is equally important.