Today CTA officials unveiled a security camera pilot program that allows the agency to record activity at four CTA rail stations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to deterring vandalism and aiding the Chicago Police Department in identifying offenders, the cameras will enable the CTA to observe platform conditions and ridership patterns, an important factor when determining schedules and service levels. Testing of cameras at rail stations is part of CTA's ongoing effort to provide a secure environment for its customers.
"At CTA security is of paramount importance," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett. ?These cameras are designed to protect the operation of our rail system while reinforcing our commitment to provide safe and friendly service for our customers. Video surveillance has proven to be an effective security tool on our bus system and we believe it will serve the same purpose on our rail system."
CTA has strategically placed security cameras, monitors and digital recording devices at key points throughout four stations: Roosevelt and 95th /Dan Ryan stations on the Red Line, Kedzie on the Green Line and 35th/Archer on the Orange Line. CTA selected the stations representing a cross section of how the CTA's rail system operates and the varying lighting and climate conditions at each station.
"Anyone considering unlawful acts should know that we have the capability to record and review their activities," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. "This pilot has dual benefits. It allows us to take full advantage of developing security technology that can deter crime and aid in prosecutions. In addition, the recorded data can be evaluated to better understand ridership trends. The more information we have on our operations, the better service and security we can provide for our customers."
Budgeted at just over $294,000, the CTA will use the yearlong pilot project to ascertain the best technology, the most effective locations for cameras to be installed and the number of cameras required to adequately record activity. The agency will assess video equipment supplied by three different manufacturers, experiment with camera angles and determine whether fiber optics or digital phone connections are the best means of transmitting data from each station back to the agency's control center.
On average, participating stations have six cameras and two monitors each. Activity can be recorded along the platforms, on stairways, as well as near elevators, escalators and transit card vending machines at the pilot stations. Images at these stations are recorded to a digital hard drive and transmitted to the CTA control center via fiber optics from the Roosevelt and Kedzie stations and via digital phone connections from the 35th/Archer and 95th Street stations.
Although the cameras primarily will be used to record activity, the CTA has the capability to watch live feeds when necessary. Each station has a camera directed at customer call buttons. When a customer pushes this button, the monitor immediately displays the view from that camera so that the customer assistant can observe current activity at that site. CTA also has the capability to use live monitors in the control center to observe platform conditions such as crowd size and weather related issues and make needed changes in service or maintenance. In addition, if an illegal incident occurs, CTA has the ability to go back and review activity that has occurred within up to 14 days. This information can be useful to police in identifying offenders and to prosecutors in securing convictions.
The project was competitively bid and awarded to Aldridge Electric, Inc. in May 2002, and installation was completed in mid-September.
The CTA has found security cameras to be a valuable crime-fighting tool. In 1999, CTA began installing cameras on buses in order to deter graffiti and etchings on bus windows. Each bus has four to five cameras positioned in the front, rear and center of the bus that can record anywhere from 24 to 90 hours of video depending on the system. The CTA provides authorities with recordings obtained from the cameras, if possible, estimates of the damages and witnesses. The Chicago Police Department has been able to make 34 arrests directly related to information received from the CTA through cameras on buses.
The CTA has taken other steps to improve security in recent years, including installing intercom systems in every rail car, equipping rail platforms with emergency call buttons, and providing brighter lighting in stations. CTA has at least one employee on duty at every train stop operating at night. Uniformed and plainclothes officers ride the trains and patrol stations day and night and they are augmented by private security and off-duty police officers.
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