Increased security cameras

Mayor Emanuel talks with CTA President Forrest Claypool and Nancy Lipman, commander of the Chicago Police Department's Public Transportation Unit, on board a train at the Kimball Brown Line station May 7 while discussing security cameras. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune / May 6, 2014)

Mayor Emanuel and the CTA on Tuesday heralded a nearly 22 percent decrease in thefts and robberies on the CTA, the most common crimes reported on the system.

The announcement comes just days after Chicago police announced charges in the July 16 armed robbery of several riders on an Orange Line train headed downtown.

The CTA credited expanded police patrols, undercover operations targeting pickpocketers and 23,000-plus security cameras across the CTA for the decrease.

"There are a number of factors that can affect crime levels, but regardless of how you look at the numbers, it’s clear that progress is being made," CTA President Forrest Claypool said in a release.

Still, fewer people are riding the CTA than last year. CTA ridership is down 3.4 percent systemwide January through April compared with the same period in 2013, according to April ridership numbers, the most recent CTA data available.

There were 166.8 million rides this year through April, compared with 172.7 million rides in 2013. Bus ridership, which accounts for about 55 percent of CTA rides, is down nearly 9 percent to 91 million rides. Rail ridership is up 4 percent to 75.8 million rides.

There is "no evidence that ridership is a factor" in the crime decrease, CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said. "Crime is down in far greater percentages than the modest decline in overall ridership year-to-date through April."

Record cold in January was also not a factor in the crime decrease, Chase said. "Crime fell at about the same rate in the second quarter of 2014 compared with the first quarter of 2014, which had far more severe weather, demonstrating the decline in crime has not been weather related," Chase aid.

Serious crimes and thefts were down 21.7 percent on rail and 22.6 percent on buses, Chase said.

Systemwide, there were 796 thefts in the first half of the year, compared with 975 in the same period in 2013. Robberies were down from 237 incidents last year to 154 incidents this year. Crime statistics were through June while the Orange Line robbery occured in July.

The agency also saw fewer incidents of aggravated assault and battery.

CTA statistics show the last homicide on the system was in 2011, however a man was beaten to death on a Green Line platform in March 2013, according to police records.

After RedEye pointed out the death to the CTA, Chase said the transit agency is updating its statistics to include the slaying.