August 8, 2002

Criminal and Civil Charges Pursued Against All Offenders

The CTA is serious about prosecuting vandals who damage CTA property. Over the past two years, the CTA has helped prosecutors file charges against 340 offenders for vandalizing CTA property. Working with prosecutors, the agency provides film obtained from security cameras, estimates of the damages and witnesses to make charges stick.

"Damaging CTA property and assaulting employees or passengers are all serious offenses. As we work to manage our budget, absorbing the cost of damaged property is not where we want to put our money," explained Frank Kruesi, CTA President. "Those individuals who are violating the law are being held accountable, either in criminal or civil court. Our funds are better spent investing in our infrastructure, so we will continue to pursue every infraction of the law."

The CTA also pursues damages against trespassers who interrupt service and cause system delays. Last week CTA filed a lawsuit against Joseph D. Konopka seeking over $250,000 in damages. Konopka was arrested in March 2002. It was determined that Konopka was trespassing on the CTA system, changed door locks and stored toxic chemicals on CTA property. The CTA estimates that its cost for securing and inspecting the subway was $249,241, the material cost was $857, the approximate cost for replacement service was $17,110 and the cost of additional supervision was $2,967. On July 18, 2002 a known pickpocket refused to leave a CTA station. He was arrested for criminal trespass and sentenced to six months conditional discharge.

Other recent cases include a civil action for vandalism involving damage to a bus shelter panel, which resulted in a judgement for $1,400 and a conviction for criminal damage to property with a sentence of 18 months probation. An incident captured on a CTA bus' security camera involved damage due to graffiti on bus seats and windows. The offender was identified using images from the security camera. He was sentenced to one year of conditional discharge and ordered to pay $120 in restitution to the CTA.

"We have worked closely with CTA staff to make arrests and provide the evidence needed to make successful criminal and civil cases," commented Ed Gross, Commander of the Chicago Police Department's Public Transportation Section. "Many of our cases focus on vandalism but we have also made arrests on other offenses including assault, battery and trespassing."

Last year a trespassing violation resulted in the death of one of the offenders. Trespassing and vandalism charges were filed against two of the three men who entered into an area of the CTA Red Line subway tunnel with the intent of defacing walls. One of the offenders attempted to spray paint the train tracks, was electrocuted and died from his injuries. All power to a large section of the Red Line had to be removed in order for CTA personnel and Chicago police to investigate the incident, interrupting service for more than three hours at a cost in excess of $2,400.

CTA received $1,800 in restitution from the criminal court as part of the men's sentences for criminal damage to property. A civil suit was filed following the criminal hearing for recovery of the remaining expenses resulting from their trespass to CTA property. A judgement was entered in favor of CTA against all three defendants.

"The CTA is the second largest transit system in the country and we take great pride in our appearance as well as our performance," continued Kruesi. " It all contributes to delivering a positive public transit experience for our customers."

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