Taggers and vandals should think twice before leaving their mark on buses, trains or at stations: the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) are cracking down on vandalism—thanks to the CTA’s growing security camera network.
With the ability to catch more vandals on camera, the CTA is now employing a new strategy to deter graffiti on trains, buses and other transit properties: filing lawsuits against the parents of minor children and others arrested for the crime to recover the cost of damages.
Already in 2014, following several police surveillance missions and using images pulled from station and rail car cameras, police have made 60 arrests for graffiti-related crimes on CTA properties—many of which would not have been made without images caught on CTA cameras.
In just the first three months of this year, these 60 graffiti-related arrests are the equivalent of all CTA vandalism arrests made in 2013—the result of new rail car cameras added to the fleet in late 2013.
“Working closely with the Chicago Police Department and with the strong support of Mayor Emanuel, the CTA continues to make significant progress in combatting vandalism across our system, which cost our agency $1 million last year in cleaning and repairs,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “As the CTA continues to expand our surveillance camera network across our system, we are improving the capability of CTA and Chicago Police staff to catch criminals in the act of vandalism and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
Since May 2011, has installed thousands of security cameras at stations, facilities and vehicles.. The CTA also recently installed multiple cameras onto 830 older CTA rail cars (the 2600-series and 3200-series) that previously did not have any cameras. The CTA’s newest generation of rail cars, the 5000-series, are manufactured with cameras already installed. Nearly 430 5000-series of a total planned 716 new rail cars have already been added to CTA;’s rail fleet.
The anti-graffiti lawsuits, the first of their kind filed by the CTA, are the result of images of criminal graffiti acts captured by CTA security cameras at rail stations and on rail cars. The CTA and Chicago Police used those images to identify the individuals who committed the vandalism and make arrests.
“Without security cameras, these arrests likely would not have occurred, and these individuals would still be defacing CTA property,” said Claypool.
This week, the CTA filed four lawsuits totaling $13,109 against the parents or legal guardians of eight minors, ages 14-17, all charged with misdemeanor criminal defacement to property. A fifth lawsuit against an adult and serial offender charged with felony criminal damage to government property seeks $14,269 in damages.
Last month, the CTA settled with an adult who plead guilty to misdemeanor criminal defacement of property and will reimburse the CTA for $3,536 in cleaning costs. He will also serve community service hours.
The lawsuits against parents are filed under the Illinois Parental Responsibility Act (740 ILCS 115/1 et. seq.), which authorizes “recovery of damages from parents or legal guardians due to the willful injury to person or property by minor children.” The CTA only seeks the actual cost of the cleanup or repair of the vandalism and any lost revenue due to rail cars being out of service, plus court costs and its attorneys’ fees.
“We hope these lawsuits will serve as a deterrent to all those who might be tempted to vandalize a train car, station or other CTA property,” Claypool said. “Our cameras will capture the crime, and police will use those images to find and arrest you.”