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Lakeview Residents Sound Off About Crime On CTA, Say Police Seem Scarce

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Each weekday, 1.5 million people use the Chicago Transit Authority.

But lately, a rash of violent crime on CTA trains has robbed some commuters of their sense of security.

A 65-year-old man named Greg Ignatius was one of the recent victims of crime on the CTA – specifically at the busy Belmont Red-Brown-Purple Line station.

He spoke to CBS 2 this past weekend, and turned out Wednesday evening at the Town Hall (19th) District police station, 850 W. Addison St., to voice his concerns at a community policing meeting.

And as CBS 2's Mike Puccinelli reported, Ignatius was not alone.

"I'll tell you something – I'm mad as hell," one man said. And judging by the round of applause, many of the other people in the standing-room-only crowd at the police station are likewise mad as hell.

"A week ago last Friday, I was a victim at the Belmont stop," Lakeview resident Kathryn Masterson said at the meeting. "My husband and I came back from a place, and a man just attacked me."

The people at the CAPS meeting were angry because they fear they're increasingly becoming victims of crime on the CTA.

The first question came from Ignatius, who was beaten on the escalator at the Belmont station just five days ago, was, "Why does it take so long?"

A quick look at Ignatius' bruised face shows why he was speaking with such passion. He was in even worse condition the day after the attack, when he said he could barely see.

Ignatius was mugged by a group of young people in broad daylight.

"It just hit me and I just go, 'Whack!' And he did it four times in a row in quick succession," said Ignatius told CBS 2's Marissa Parra.

Police at the CAPS meeting Wednesday night said crime on the CTA is going down.

We crunched the numbers and found that from Thanksgiving to Christmas last year, 458 crimes were reported on the CTA. In 2019 during that same period, there were a total of 145 arrests - compared with 102 in 2018.

That's a jump of more than 42 percent.

One man at the meeting said that compared with the New York City subway system – which has 472 stations compared to Chicago's 145 – police officers seem to be scarce on the Chicago 'L' system.

"I never see cops – on the platforms, in the cars," the man said. "Even in New York City, they're everywhere."

That was why participants ripped officials for having about 70 officers a shift assigned to patrol the entire CTA system.

"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," Masterson said.

Ignatius said despite what happened to him, he'll be riding the rails soon. He said he refuses to give into fear.

"No, I'm not going to," he said.

Since 2017, the CTA and police have teamed up on the Transit Rider Interaction Program, or TRIP. What that entails is basically officers going on TRIP missions in train stations, on train platforms, and on train cars themselves.

The people at the CAPS meeting Wednesday night called for a dramatic increase in TRIP missions by officers.

Meanwhile Wednesday night, police issued a new community alert about thefts on CTA trains – all affecting Near North Side stops from River North to the Clybourn Corridor.

The thefts 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.

The suspect in those thefts is described as an African-American male between 5 feet 9 inches and 6 feet tall, weighing between 140 and 170 pounds, between 17 and 20 years old. Police did not specify what he was wearing or any other details.

Anyone with information on the crimes in the community alert is asked to call Area Central detectives at (312) 747-8380.

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