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A look into crime on the CTA in 2014

By Clayton Guse
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Yesterday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office published a press release touting a reduction in crime on the CTA. Serious crimes committed on CTA platforms, stations, trains and buses dropped by 26 percent in 2014. Robberies and thefts, Chicago's most common crimes, also saw a similar decrease.

Given that the election is less than a week away, it's not surprising that the mayor is trying to squeeze as much good faith out of the city's crime statistics as possible. The release hails the CTA's network of security cameras and expanded police patrols as the impetus behind the reduction. But in a larger context, last year's drop in CTA crime is not all too impressive.

Serious crime rates on the CTA are still higher than when Daley was in office

Serious crimes, which the city qualifies as homicide, criminal sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson, hit the lowest total of Emanuel's administration last year at 2,047 reports, according to the city's data portal. In 2006, there were just 1,560 such reports. Even with last year's reduction, serious crime on the CTA is still up by 31 percent over the past eight years. 

The increase of security cameras is not necessarily leading to more arrests

Last year, less than 10 percent of the serious crime reports on the CTA resulted in an arrest. Such arrests have dropped during each year of Emanuel's term. Granted, overall CTA crime reports have dropped as well, but there hasn't been a significant shift in arrest rate under Rahm's rule.

Serious crime still affects nearly every El station in the city

Even with an influx of security cameras and personnel, serious crime reports were distributed pretty evenly across the entire El network last year. Stations in the Loop and other highly trafficked areas understandably saw the biggest concentration of reports, but there is hardly a stop in the city that did not see a serious crime report.

Here's a map of serious crime reports on CTA stations and platforms in 2014:

Hailing a reduction in CTA crime last year seems like a pretty shallow manipulation of stats. Last year's decrease is worth noting, but can hardly be attributed to Emanuel. Nonetheless, the report will probably help the mayor's reelection bid, even if it is a pretty crude example of juking the stats.

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