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Police Adding More Officers To Public Transportation Unit Amid Worries About Crime On CTA

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Do you notice more police on the 'L' lately? You will.

CBS 2's Tara Molina has learned that extra officers are being assigned to a city transit unit after a series of attacks, robberies, and beatings on Chicago Transit Authority trains.

It's a spike in crime we have tracked for weeks.

Police say the staffing changes are not temporary. More officers, police said, are being assigned to the Public Transportation Unit – and that is in addition to the increase just months ago.

The clank and whirr of a train pulling in, and the sound of the "doors closing" chimes, are familiar to hundreds of thousands on a daily basis. More than 700,000 people use the CTA train system every day, according to the agency.

But some people have told harrowing stories about recent violent attacks, at all hours, on platforms and trains.

Last week, people gathered to voice concerns about crime on CTA trains at a Chicago Alternative Policing Strategies meeting at the Town Hall (19th) District police station, 850 W. Addison St.

Among the attendees was Greg Ignatius, who was mugged by a group of young people in broad daylight at the Belmont Red-Brown-Purple Line station.

"He landed a series of about four (punches)," said Ignatius said.

The crime has reached the point where some everyday riders are thinking twice about riding the 'L' at all.

"I want to be able to ride the CTA and I don't feel comfortable doing it right now, because it doesn't feel like there's a lot of police around," said Lakeview resident Kathryn Masterson.

Chicago Police said they are making moves to change that.

They say the 200 officers assigned to the CPD Public Transportation Section just got a 10-person boost. And that's in addition to the 40 added for the summer were kept within the unit.

The Town Hall District, which oversees the busy Belmont stop where Ignatius, 65, was beaten, is taking it a step further.

According to the CPD, the District Cmdr. Chris Papaioannou is directing officers to ride the trains and visit CTA stations within their district.

We rode the train to check that out on Wednesday, and found a squad car parked right outside the station.

The department said it identifies areas that are part of the uptick and pays extra attention to those.

The following are among the recent crimes that have been reported on the CTA:

• A man was robbed on the evening of Sunday, Jan. 12, at the 47th Street Red Line station. The 24-year-old man told police two male assailants had taken his property by force while on the train. One suspect fled, but the other – a 20-year-old man – was detained and taken into custody by officers without incident, but was later released without charges

• A string of armed robberies have happened at the 79th Street Red Line station. In each incident, the robbers came up to the victim on the platform, took out a gun, hit the victim, and demanded money, police said. The robberies happened at 11 p.m. Friday, Jan. 3; 9:10 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8; and 1:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 10.

• Ignatius was beaten at the Belmont station on Friday, Jan. 3. He said a woman in front of him started picking a fight, blocking both sides of the escalator. Then, suddenly someone behind him grabbed him and started punching. He was not robbed, but he believes that was the motive

• On Thursday, Jan. 2 at the Belmont station, three teenagers were charged after a man was punched on a Brown Line train. Police said a 55-year-old man said he was on a train when a group of assailants took his personal property and punched him.

Officers were told there was a girl who was moving from car to car as they investigated. They found her hiding under the seats with the victim's property, police said.

The girl, 16, was charged with one count of theft. Two others – a 13-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy – were also arrested and charged with obstructing identification.

• On Thursday, Jan. 2 around 9:57 a.m., police say a man exposed himself and assaulted a woman on the Red Line near Morse Avenue in Rogers Park. Police said a 24-year-old female was riding the northbound Red Line train towards the stop when she was encountered by a man who exposed his genitals.

The victim changed rail cars and as she attempted to elude him, the suspect struck her several times, police said.

• On the morning of Thursday, Jan. 2, a man was stabbed in a quarrel near the Cicero Avenue stop on the Blue Line..

• Just before 8 p.m. Dec. 31, there was another attack near the Grand Avenue stop. A 22-year-old man was punched in the face and robbed.

• Around 5:40 p.m. Dec. 31, another 61-year-old man was punched in the face and robbed by a male juvenile near the Chicago Avenue station, police said. A suspect was apprehended in that case.

#149; On Dec. 29, a 61-year-old man was attacked by a mixed-gender group of six to 10 attackers who he said followed him onto the platform at the Lake Street Red Line station after harassing him on a train. Then the entire group attacked, punching the 61-year-old repeatedly and stealing his bag.

A 21-year-old man saw this happening and tried to help, but the group beat him up, too, and stole his cell phone.

• A pregnant woman and her friend were beaten on the Red Line train near Roosevelt on Dec. 29. The group got into a quarrel with a pregnant 28-year-old woman shortly before 7 p.m., and one person in the group hit her in the back of the head, knocking her down. The group then kicked and stomped on her back and ribs, and ran away. Two teenage girls have been charged in that case.

• On Dec. 29 around 3:40 a.m., an assailant attacked 37-year-old man and robbed him near the Harrison Street station. One suspect has been connected to that case and the one two days later at Chicago Avenue.

• Police issued a community alert about thefts on the Red Line in December. They happened on Wednesday, Dec. 18 in the morning around the North/Clybourn Red Line station; on Wednesday, Dec. 18 in the late evening around the Chicago/Franklin Brown-Purple Line station; on Tuesday, Dec. 31 in the evening hours around the Grand Avenue Red Line stop, and on Saturday, Jan. 4 in the afternoon around the Chicago Avenue Red Line stop.

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