Thursday, January 13, 2011

CTA Cameras To Keep An Eye on Safety

CHICAGO (CBS) – The Chicago Transit Authority will soon be keeping a closer eye on you, and your safety, if you ride the ‘L.’

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, new high-definition cameras will be installed in many train cars. So if you have ever felt nervous about pickpockets or other criminals hanging out on the train or at ‘L’ and subway stations, this will be good news for you.

The CTA will install more security cameras in almost all of its trains now in service. This spring, it plans to equip half of its rail car fleet, and if all goes well, the rest of the trains could get the cameras later in the year.

When the process is complete, the security cameras will be installed on all but CTA’s oldest group of rapid transit cars, built in 1969-70. Those cars, numbered in the 2200 series, are to be retired beginning later this year with the arrival of new rapid transit cars, which come camera-equipped.

The CTA says the cameras have resolution so high that they can identify what commuters are reading while standing on the platform.

CTA’s Chief Safety and Security officer, Amy Kovalan, said Wednesday that if the installation works as planned, the transit agency has a “verbal agreement” from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) to pay for installation of cameras on the rest of CTA’s rapid transit fleet.

The CTA received about $22 million to expand camera coverage on its rail system.

Eventually, the cameras will be linked to the CTA Control Center, where someone will be monitoring the trains.

Kovalan said a Homeland Security grant also will pay for improved security in its rapid transit yards, to make trespassing or sabotage less likely. Federal stimulus money is being used to install new-generation security cameras in CTA’s subway tunnels.

CTA President Ricahrd Rodriguez said Wednesday that the new-generation high definition cameras can show clearly what riders are reading on platforms.

“Five of the HD cameras might give better coverage than 20 of the older cameras,” he said.

While some riders are a little leery about being watched on security cameras, many said their primary concern is safety, particularly in the overnight hours.

One rider at the Fullerton Red-Brown-Purple Line station near DePaul University said he feels “pretty safe” on the ‘L,’ but as to the cameras, “I think it’s a good thing; always, the more cameras, theoretically, the safer we’re supposed to be.”

Another rider said earlier that low-tech solutions can work just as well.

“I think even pulling up to a stop and saying, ‘Hey everybody, there’s been some pickpockets here. Beware of your stuff,’ would be enough,” said Richard Osborn, whose teenage daughter recent had an iPod stolen from her at the Sedgwick Brown Line stop.

Osborn said CTA personnel advised him that iPod and iPhone thefts have been common recently on the Brown Line from Sedgwick south.

The CTA hopes the new cameras will make commuters feel safer at all times of the day, and make it easier to arrest and prosecute those who commit crimes on CTA property.