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Chicago Installed Thousands of Cameras on its Rail Platforms. Crime Jumped by 21 Percent.

A couple of weeks ago, Chicago Transit Authority president Forrest Claypool announced that the agency would install high-definition surveillance cameras in 850 rail cars. There are already more than 3,600 cameras throughout the rail system, in stations and on trains, and the CTA spent a lot of money putting them there—approximately $26 million. “With more cameras, we will be able to step up our efforts to fight crime on the system,” said Claypool.

But the Chicago Sun-Times reports that rail-station crime has actually increased since the cameras were installed. The Sun-Times found that, in 2012, the number of crimes reported at CTA rail stations jumped by 21 percent year over year, and by 32 percent from 2010, prior to when most of the cameras were installed. Many of these crimes involve theft, drug use, vandalism, and fare evasion. (CTA spokesman Brian Steele told me that much of the rise in crime is due to a 41 percent jump in fare evasion.) Violent crime, however, is down by 30 percent, while arrest rates are slightly up.

Given those stats, should we consider the CTA’s camera program a crime-fighting success or a money-wasting failure?

Read on....

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