With the ability to catch more vandals on its growing security camera network, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is now employing a new strategy to deter graffiti on trains, buses and other transit properties: filing lawsuits against the parents of minor children and others arrested for the crime to recover the cost of damages.
Already in 2014, following several police surveillance missions and using images pulled from station and railcar cameras, police have made 60 arrests for graffiti-related crimes on CTA properties — many of which would not have been made without images caught on CTA cameras.
In just the first three months of this year, these 60 graffiti-related arrests are the equivalent of all CTA vandalism arrests made in 2013 — the result of new railcar cameras added to the fleet in late 2013.
“As the CTA continues to expand our surveillance camera network across our system, we are improving the capability of CTA and Chicago Police staff to catch criminals in the act of vandalism and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool.
The anti-graffiti lawsuits, the first of their kind filed by the CTA, are the result of images of criminal graffiti acts captured by CTA security cameras at rail stations and on railcars. The CTA and Chicago Police used those images to identify the individuals who committed the vandalism and make arrests.
This week, the CTA filed four lawsuits totaling $13,109 against the parents or legal guardians of eight minors, ages 14 to 17, all charged with misdemeanor criminal defacement to property. A fifth lawsuit against an adult and serial offender charged with felony criminal damage to government property seeks $14,269 in damages.
Last month, the CTA settled with an adult who plead guilty to misdemeanor criminal defacement of property and will reimburse the CTA for $3,536 in cleaning costs. He will also serve community service hours.
Since May 2011, the CTA has installed thousands of security cameras at stations, facilities and vehicles. Recently, the agency installed multiple cameras onto 830 older CTA railcars that previously did not have any cameras.
The CTA’s newest generation of railcars, the 5000-series, are manufactured with cameras already installed. Nearly 430 5000-series, of a total planned 716 new railcars, have already been added to CTA’s rail fleet.