Quincy Cain says he watched a woman confront a man who stole her cell phone on a CTA bus one day as he rode the bus to school in the South Loop.
Cain, 20, said he heard the woman scream “Hey, he’s got my phone,” as a man ran off the bus. He said the woman chased after the man.
The incident happened in April, said Cain, who was a student at Columbia College Chicago.
“It was very shocking,” Cain said. “You don’t witness a crime like that every day, and it really took me by surprise.”
Cain was one of a handful of college students interviewed Saturday in the South Loop about the increase of thefts on the CTA. Most people said they don’t always feel safe on the CTA, especially when they are by themselves.
According to www.chicago.everyblock.com, a website that tracks crimes in the city, there were 13 reported crimes involving the CTA in one week in the South Loop. These crimes ranged from assault to pick-pocketing to deceptive practice. These crimes happened on CTA buses and trains, CTA garages and CTA platforms.
Meanwhile, in Hyde Park, where the University of Chicago is located, only one crime was reported involving the CTA in a week. The crime was theft, purse-snatching, on a CTA bus. The number of CTA crimes in the South Loop is 92 percent higher than those recorded in Hyde Park.
“We currently and previously have gone to CTA stops and passed out flyers asking people to be aware of their surroundings and not have cell phones in plain view,” said Angela Winburn-Wright, CPD officer in the South Loop, said at a recent CAPS meeting.
College students said they wished there was a way to make the CTA safer.
“I only feel safe when I’m riding the CTA with a group of friends,” Cain said.
Danielle Jackman, a Columbia College Chicago student, said: “At night I don’t feel very safe on the CTA and sometimes I don’t like the way people look at me.” Jackman, a sophomore, said she usually rides the CTA in the morning or late at night.
“CPD could definitely be more involved and aware of what’s going on,” Jackman said. “I would like to see an officer in every train car, or at least in every other train car.”
Jackman said she was on the CTA once and immediately felt safer when she saw a CTA officer, but after the officer started creepily “hitting on” her she didn’t feel safe anymore. Jackman said the officer continued even after she told him that she was 17.
“I feel safe that the conductor is doing his or her job of navigating the subway, but the people that use the CTA are the ones to be cautious of,” said Carla Andrade, a Columbia College Chicago student.
She said she does use her cell phone on the CTA, but tries to remain aware of her surroundings. “I think [CPD] could also maybe have an officer in each car to watch over anyone that seems suspicious,” Andrade said.
Winburn-Wright said there are cameras at the CTA’s Red Line Harrison stop that help the CPD track illegal movement and make it easier to catch and arrest people. She also said the cameras are great and pictures and information they get is quite useful.
“I’m pretty sure they have live cameras to see what is going on on the CTA,” Andrade said. “That is very useful.”
According to the CTA website, there are more than 3,000 cameras throughout the system. The website also said that all 144 rail stations are equipped with cameras.
Not all of the students thought the CPD should strengthen security on the CTA. “Police officers just make things more awkward and uncomfortable and I think they could just go away,” said JD Escobar, 19, from Cicero.
He said that he rides all of the different CTA lines often and never noticed a single officer, but he does feel comfortable enough to use his cell phone if it’s in the afternoon – not late at night.
“CPD can’t be everywhere but we ask people to be a little bit smarter about what they’re doing,” said Mary Panick, CPD Officer in the South Loop.
She said people don’t pay enough attention to what is going on around them.
“The best precaution I can take is just to keep aware of my surroundings and who is around me,” Escobar said.
Escobar said he doesn’t take out his phone unless he has a reason to.
“I feel like if someone has their phone out and is drawing attention to themselves, then I don’t think they should be surprised if something unfortunate happens,” he said. “ It’s sort of common sense to not be flashy and make it apparent that you have something expensive if you’re in a small space full of complete strangers.”
Even with the increase of thefts on the CTA, the students still said that they used their cell phones on the CTA.
“I have an iPhone, but I do not take out my phone if there are people around me,” said Tammi Haggerty, another Columbia College Chicago student.
She said that if she is sitting on the CTA and has a book bag, she will place the bag in her lap and, if standing, she puts the bag in front of her. She also said that she doesn’t unzip or go through her bag/purse while on the CTA either.
The CPD presence might reduce thefts, Haggerty said. “Cell phones are important to us all but if someone is unable to pull themselves away from it for a short while on the train; they are putting themselves at risk.”
All of the students said they knew they should be cautious, but they are only a few of the thousands of CTA riders.
“Everyone knows about the theft problems on the CTA but unfortunately a lot of people have the mentality that it will not happen to them,” Haggerty said.