A few months ago, I opined about the nuanced exaggerations the media sometimes resorts to when it comes to linking where crime occurs and geographically proximate “factors” like transit, which I argued is often used as a scapegoat. My own quick and dirty analysis revealed that criminal activity aboard transit largely reflects existing patterns in the neighborhoods where said crimes occur.
The Chicago Tribune completed a much more in-depth analysis for the Windy City over a two-year period, examining the types and locations of crimes that were occurring within the CTA system. While there’s some jabbering about anecdotal experiences and riders’ own perceptions of crime, the underlying findings largely mirror my own:
The geographic examination of city data from 2009 through June 13 of this year demonstrates that crime patterns on the CTA closely mirror Chicago’s demographics, in terms of population density and income disparities (emphasis mine).
I still think the way police captain Lemmer frames “safe” and “unsafe” stations is a little off. There’s really no such thing as an “unsafe” station, except those that are purposefully built to be unsafe. Safety, at least as it relates to crime, or the illusion of it merely reflects the goings-on in the surrounding environment. Whether a crime takes place on a subway platform or on the street below has little to do with the station itself. Similarly, the article’s headline: “Analysis reveals hot spots for CTA-related crimes” is also misleading in this regard.
Ultimately, I think the analysis only adds to evidence that crime is a structural problem. Unfortunately, the way we segregate policing by jurisdiction (i.e., Metro Police will respond to a crime on a bus, while Seattle PD will respond to a crime on the street) seems to uphold faulty notions about transit or even the people who use it. If anything, we should use transit as a tool to combat crime, building vibrant community spaces that attract the attention the eyes of all its users.