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95th Station shooting by CTA employee shouldn’t lead to more armed security

The new 95th Street Red Line station. Photo: Jeff Zoline

Over the weekend there was yet another violent incident that occurred on Chicago transit. The incident involved a Chicago Transit Authority employee. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that station attendant Sylvester Adams, 53, who lives in south-suburban Lynwood, allegedly shot a CTA rider multiple times after a confrontation in which the allegedly intoxicated passenger shoved Adams to the ground. The incident occurred at the 95th / Dan Ryan Red Line station early Saturday morning. The CTA wants to fire Adams for breaking multiple CTA rules, including possessing a firearm on CTA property while at work.

While I understand that Saturday’s incident is unusual in that it was a CTA employee who shot a CTA rider, I am concerned that this tragic event will lead to more calls for an armed presence on CTA property. Sometimes noteworthy incidents of violence lead to such calls.

Recently, the CTA board approved a $71 million multi-year contract for unarmed security with Inter-Con Security and politically connected Monterrey Security. The new contract also increases the number of days the guards work. Before the new contract, the unarmed guards worked five days a week and with the new contract they will work every day and their numbers will double to more than 200. Streetsblog reached out to CTA spokesperson Brian Steele for more information on the unarmed guards and their role for an article about the announcement.

Sky bridge at the 85th / Dan Ryan Red Line station. Photo: John Greenfield
Sky bridge at the 85th / Dan Ryan Red Line station. Photo: John Greenfield
Sky bridge at the 85th / Dan Ryan Red Line station. Photo: John Greenfield

Steele shared that the unarmed guards are intended to act as a deterrent to crime and rule-breaking, and they will also double as customer assistants who can help riders navigate the system. They are trained in conflict resolution and de-escalation, and are briefed about CTA operations so that they can answer questions about bus and rail service. At the same time this news was announced, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago police superintendent David Brown, and CTA president Dorval Carter announced that the Chicago Police Department will also be deploying more officers on public transit. Those officers will be divided into teams focusing on gangs and drug crimes on the CTA, and also patrol CTA rail lines according to a Chicago Sun-Times article.

Streetsblog Chicago has published several articles on the need for effective and humane solutions to the public safety and quality of life issues on the CTA that have become more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when many Chicagoans have been experiencing economic hardship and mental health difficulties, and ridership has decreased considerably.

Adding an armed presence to transit increases the chances for unintended consequences such as passengers being harmed by officers for minor infractions. Incidents such as these have already occurred on Chicagoland transit. I hope that reason will prevail and the CTA feels satisfied with their decision to deploy more unarmed guards. Perhaps one of the unarmed guards could have been of assistance in Saturday's events and prevented an escalation of the situation.

I wish for a full recovery to the victim of the shooting.

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