July 28--Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Transit Authority President Forrest Claypool on Wednesday touted a $10 million investment to hire 50 full-time police officers to patrol the rail and bus system.
But a closer look reveals a less significant outlay.
The CTA says it is already paying out $9.2 million a year to 60 officers to handle security on their off days. Under the new plan, the transit agency simply will add another $800,000 to what it's already spending.
Instead of part-time help, the CTA will have new officers fresh out of the Chicago Police Academy on the transit beat starting in spring.
The new officers are in addition to an accelerated schedule to install 3,000 high-resolution video cameras at all CTA rail stations by the year's end.
"It brings a level of security that's comprehensive. ... So people going to and from work or from neighborhood to neighborhood can feel safe," said Emanuel, who rode the CTA Green Line two stops to the news conference outside the Ashland "L" station.
"At one time, we talked about putting more police on the street. In this case, we're putting more police on the platform," he said.
In his final budget, Mayor Richard Daley promised to add up to 200 officers. Those cops were not hired before Daley left office.
"I know what the budget called for. I also know what budget problems I'm facing," Emanuel said. "So what we've done is be smart about how we apply our resources."
Emanuel has reassigned nearly 750 officers to beat patrols as he tries to deliver on his campaign promise to add 1,000 officers to Chicago's streets. Those moves largely shuffled existing resources but have not added officers to the ranks.
While violent crime is down in Chicago, the robbery rate is running higher this year on the CTA system.
There were 581 robberies reported on CTA property in Chicago in 2010, averaging 48 a month, according to the most recent statistics first provided to the Tribune by the Police Department. From January through May of this year, there were 294 robberies, an average of 59 a month -- a 23 percent increase.
"Criminals don't know boundaries," police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said. "Every tool in our toolbox has to be used to reduce crime."
Having additional officers who ride the rails every day is part of the department's beat-cop philosophy, McCarthy said. An increased presence on public transportation along with intelligent deployment will help officers identify trends quicker, he said.
"In addition to deterring thefts and robberies, these officers also make an impact on crime, such as turnstile jumping, panhandling and other nuisance crimes that affect the riders' experience," Claypool said. "I'm a firm believer that if we can stop these minor incidents when we see them, we will prevent them from becoming and even leading to bigger problems for us."
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