CHICAGO — In defending the city's efforts to combat crime on the Chicago Transit Authority, the agency said that while crimes such as theft rose near 'L' stations, violent crime has decreased 30 percent.
The CTA swiftly responded to a biting analysis from the Sun-Times that concluded that even with $26 million worth of new cameras installed, reported crime rose 21 percent at the agency's 145 rail stations from 2011.
Those cameras have been a point of pride for the CTA, which has released a number of reports arguing that increased surveillance would provide a deterrent to potential criminals and make travelers safer.
The Sun-Times reported the category of rail station crime that includes cell phone thefts, purse snatching, fare evasion, simple assault and drug crimes were up 26 percent.
Fare evasion, the most common crime at rail stations, was up 41 percent, according to the paper and agency.
CTA spokesman Brian Steele said many of these crimes "don't directly impact the safety and security of CTA passengers."
The agency said that overall violent crime on CTA properties was down 19 percent in 2012. Near rail stations, violent crime was down 30 percent, Steele said.
Reported robberies on CTA properties were down by 21 percent, while aggravated battery incidents were down nearly 12 percent compared to 2011, the CTA said.
The increase of reported crime is partly due to a larger police presence at the stations, meaning cops have busted more potential crooks and reported more incidents, the CTA said. For example, crimes such as turnstile-jumping and other forms of fare evasion are often caught as the crime happens, Steele said.
The rise of theft can be blamed partly on more commuters carrying pricey gadgets such as smartphones and tablets, the CTA said.
The Sun-Times noted the increased arrests, saying that the arrest rate in reported crimes on CTA stations and platforms has gone from 60.9 percent in 2010, to 61.7 percent in 2011, to 64.3 percent in 2012.
The Sun-Times also noted the dip in reported violent incidents, but didn't give enough credit to CTA cameras for capturing crime, Steele said.
"In 2012, security cameras were used in the arrest of at least 144 individuals," Steele said. "[In] nearly one crime every two weeks, an arrest was made because we were able to capture images of alleged offenders."
The Sun-Times stands by its story, said spokeswoman Alisa Alexander.
"The Sun-Times reports in its story that violent crime was down 30 percent, but overall crime at rail stations is up," she said in an email. "We stand by our story."