'Facial recognition' coming to Chicago Transit Authority

CHICAGO (WBBM) - Pickpockets and muggers beware -- soon, every turnstile at a CTA 'L' station will have airport-style face recognition cameras, and the transit agency is planning much more comprehensive cameras at all 144 of its 'L' stations.

he first of the new cameras will be installed before year's end at 17 stations on the Green Line.  Another 12 stations will be fully equipped on the Red Line by Memorial Day, at which time the face recognition cameras should be in place systemwide.

CTA President Richard Rodriguez said the agency's goal is to fully outfit all 'L' stations, but said it is dependent on federal funding, and as a result chose the 29 Green and Red Line stations first.

"That's where we've seen the majority of our instances of crime, Red and Green, so we're trying to make sure that as we add these resources, it's done where they're most critically needed," he said.

Rodriguez said all of the cameras will be linked not just to the CTA Control Center but to the city's 911 call center and police, as well.  At suburban CTA 'L' stations, CTA has established or intends to establish a similar link with local police agencies and Cook County Sheriff's Police.

CTA's board Wednesday approved a $4.3 million contract with Teleste Corp., of Georgetown, Tex., to install the cameras and related equipment.  It is financing the high-resolution turnstile cameras, which will be capable of showing facial details, through a $17.9 million U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security grant. 

"If individuals think their faces are being captured when they walk into our stations, they will think twice about harassing our passengers," Rodriguez said.

The Green Line stations to receive cameras this fall include: Central, Laramie, Cicero, Pulaski, Conservatory, California, Roosevelt, 35th, Indiana, 43rd, 47th, 51st, Garfield, King Drive, Cottage Grove, Halsted and Ashland/63rd.

The Red Line stations that will receive cameras by late May include Howard, Jarvis, Morse, Loyola, Granville, Thorndale, Bryn Mawr, Argyle, Lawrence, Wilson, Sheridan and Addison. 

Chicago Police statistics indicated that thefts on the "L" were up 2.8 percent during the first seven months of 2009 over year-ago figures.

CTA also is hoping to reduce the cost of hired security guards at its stations.  A CTA spokesperson said the cost of maintaining security at stations that are closed for the night alone is$1.27 million a year.

Currently, 50 CTA 'L' stations are fully outfitted with security cameras.  Each station typically has between 10 and 30 cameras.

The other 68 stations will be fully outfitted with security cameras as funding becomes available.  A CTA spokesperson estimated the cost at about $25.5 million.  In addition, Rodriguez said, CTA hopes to further build on the video technology by equipped police squad cars responding to 'L' stations so that cameras can see real-time cameras scans.

CTA has already run a pilot test involving a handful of squad cars, buses and 'L' stations
(9.10.2009, Bob Roberts Reporting, WBBM Newsradio 780)



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