Debate over CTA safety resumes after Red Line driver pulled knife on seven robbers, killing 15-year-old boy who police say had a gun

Public debate over the safety of the CTA reignited on Monday after a passenger on a Red Line train pulled a knife on seven robbers, killing a 15-year-old boy who police say had a gun.

It was the second time in three days that a runner on the redline used a knife to fend off a large group, and it comes as CTA officials admit they have had problems filling shifts with unarmed guards, an initiative announced in March.

While the agency said there had been a ‘big jump’ in hiring lately, a CTA union president said it was unnecessary because the guards hadn’t done much to reduce violence.

“Nobody respects these unarmed security guards who do nothing,” said Eric Dixon, president of Local 308 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

As he has advocated in the past, Dixon said the CTA should create its own police unit – disbanded 40 years ago – and put conductors back on trains.

“You want people to feel safe, you want them to use the transit system and CTA needs to do a better job of protecting them,” Dixon said. “That’s not happening right now.”

But CTA security chief Kevin Ryan said the guards are making a difference, supplementing the patrols of Chicago police officers.

“We have strategically placed people in the stations to be a force multiplier for the officers who are already there,” Ryan said at a news conference Monday morning.

CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski added that creating a new police force is unsustainable given that it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take several years to set up.

“CTA already has a dedicated police force — the Chicago Police Department (CPD) Transit Unit,” Hosinski said in a statement. “Each day, officers from this dedicated unit are dispatched throughout the system, working to prevent crime from happening and to respond quickly when it does.”

Ryan estimated that 250 guards are now deployed to the system each day, although he did not say how many are assigned to the Red Line, the agency’s busiest.

He said the agency continues to hire guards, especially for later shifts. “The security industry faces the same challenges as everyone else – trying to fill jobs,” Ryan said.

“We’ve taken a big leap forward and we’re continuing to get bigger numbers, especially from 5 a.m. to nighttime,” Ryan said. “We’re getting bigger and bigger numbers.”

DPC Superintendent David Brown speaks to reporters on Monday about a fatal attack on a Red Line train. CTA Vice President of Security Kevin Ryan is third from left.

Ryan spoke hours after the latest Redline attack, which sees the most crime in the CTA system.

A man was riding a train around 3 a.m. Monday when he was confronted by seven people near 63rd Street, according to Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan.

The video appears to show the group trying to rob the rider, with one of them pulling a gun, he said. The biker pulled out a knife, stabbed the shooter and fled, as did the robbers.

Police and paramedics found the injured shooter about a block away in the 6300 block of South Yale Avenue. The boy, Darin J. Mcnair, 15, was taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center and pronounced dead.

One of the thieves apparently picked up the weapon before fleeing, Deenihan said. No one was in custody.

Early last Friday, six robbers confronted a passenger on a Red Line train on the Near North Side. The biker pulled out a knife after he was stabbed and injured two of the robbers in a fight that spread across two trains and North/Clybourn station.

Ryan noted that the increased police presence on the CTA helped authorities arrest everyone involved in Friday’s attack, a point emphasized by the superintendent of police. David Brown at the same press conference.

The CTA recently met with representatives from the bus drivers’ union, Ryan said. “We met with bus operators about their specific concerns,” he said.

He gave no further details on what the CTA was doing to address those concerns, but said talks would continue.

But Dixon said talks with agency officials came to nothing. “When I bring this to CTA, all they say is, ‘We hear you, Eric.’ But they haven’t done anything to make me feel like we’re not going in the right direction.

“Some members are afraid to come to work,” he said. “It’s bad and getting out of hand.”

The Chicago Transit Justice Coalition, an organization of CTA workers and retirees, said violence “is one of the many risks we face on the job.”

The agency should at least revert to two-person crews, especially in “security-sensitive” areas, the coalition said.

“Our colleagues are desperate to live and work in peace,” the coalition said in a statement. “We are attacked daily on all lines and bus lines. Our employees deserve to serve the public in the best possible working conditions. »

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