The Rise in Crime and decrease in Ridership
CTA Riders left using CTA still face threats
As a result of COVID-19, Chicago Transit Authority ridership has decreased dramatically. This decrease in ridership poses a problem because riders face a lot more risk for a violent crime even though not many people are utilizing public transit.
From the years 2015 to 2020, there has been a spike in crime per 1 million riders. Data reveals that these numbers showed non-violent crimes occurred much less within that time frame. More specifically, for every single violent crime, there were about 4 non-violent crimes per million riders. This instance was first recorded back in 2015. Numbers changed up to 2018, where the ratio of violent to non-violent crime was two to eight.
The CTA has eight tracks made up of 1,492 rail cars and serves around 752,738 passengers each weekday. Despite such a complex transit system, there is one line that has the most violent crime threats overall.
The Red Line alone is considered to be the most dangerous El track compared to the other seven. Belmont ranked №1 for assault and battery crimes. In 2020, Jackson reported having 14 crimes alone. In the past six years, Jackson had 253 violent crimes while Roosevelt clocked in second with 246 violent crimes reported.
“Due to the necessary needs of having to take it, regardless if there’s crime, there’s insecurity that I feel but I still have to take it and just take precautionary steps,” said Chris Carmona, a Loyola University student who rides the Red Line daily.
“I just try to be sure of my surroundings and make sure that if I have earphones on, I only have one to be aware of whatever’s going on around me.”
Carmona uses the public transit daily despite knowing the ongoing violence taking place within and around the CTA. Carmona is one of the few riders exposed to COVID-19 after-effects in increased criminal activity.
A diminishing number of riders should lead to a diminished number of crimes taking place. This, unfortunately, isn’t the case here. The low counts of ridership don’t necessarily account for the criminals among them. Therefore, those who are still riding the CTA are at more risk of criminal activity and criminals have a greater chance of getting away with crimes committed.
Professor Dr. Joseph P. Schwieterman at DePaul University an expert in public policy, transportation, and urban planning said it’s a “difficult one-two punch.”
“Trains are running emptier, so people feel less secure and crime is up despite this,” he said. “There’s much more apprehension about stepping onto a train. You would expect crime to be down with ridership down since there are fewer opportunities but it’s the opposite. Criminals thrive when they find easy targets with few onlookers to call the police,”
“The best solution involves adding and making more security personnel prevalent (on CTA trains) and that’s extremely expensive, it’s simply not possible.”
Two CTA workers were asked about their thoughts on this matter. Both declined to comment.
CTA Media Office was also asked for an interview and declined.
How is CTA combatting the rapidly growing numbers of violent crime? What is being done to make sure riders are safe now and even safer in the future?
Operating the world's second-largest public transportation system right after New York, CTA and many of its riders consider the public transit to be an important part of their daily necessities.
“I’ve been taking the Red Line for 26 years now, and it’s kind of uncomfortable because there are fewer people and you do notice more sketchy people on the trains, more lately than I’ve seen,” he said.
Nick Bollie of Rogers Park rides the Red Line daily to get to work in downtown Chicago.
His response regarding his safety when riding public transit was, “Just keep your guard up and don’t wear your headphones.”
CTA has plans on making the largest investment in CTA history with $2.1 billion. Red Lined stations: Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn, and Bryn Mawr are all a part of the Red and Purple Modernization Phase One Project. The plan is mainly around the physical reconstruction of platforms and elevators. Geared towards improving public transit traffic rather than security measures.
Improvements in the station’s appearance and efficiency have been successful amongst previous stations that have been modified. Although many improvements for crime arent being seen now, staggering numbers and success stories regarding transit advances will hopefully make such changes seen in the future.
Until then Bollie’s advice to “keep your guard up and don’t wear your headphones” seems like a pretty reasonable thing to do for the time being.