The Chicago Transit Authority is using its expanded security camera network to crack down on vandalism and recoup cleaning costs from the vandals themselves.
Graffiti cost the CTA about $1 million last year, but in recent months the agency more than doubled the number of cameras on its system, equipping many of its trains with high-tech cameras that can see 360 degrees in all directions.
As a result, the CTA made 60 arrests of graffiti vandals in the first three months of this year, the same number they made in all of 2013.
“As the CTA continues to expand our surveillance camera network across our system," CTA President Forrest Claypool said, "we are improving the capability of CTA and Chicago Police staff to catch criminals in the act of vandalism and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
It doesn't stop there. The CTA is now going after the vandals directly, to make them reimburse the city for the cost of cleaning graffiti from trains.
This week, four lawsuits totaling over $13,000 were filed against the parents of eight minors who were charged with misdemeanor criminal defacement to property. Another lawsuit filed against an adult seeks more than $14,000 in cleaning costs.
Last month, the CTA settled with an adult who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal defacement and will reimburse the agency for $3,536 in cleaning costs.
Claypool says the first-of-their-kind graffiti lawsuits are the result of criminal graffiti acts caught on camera.
“Without security cameras, these arrests likely would not have occurred, and these individuals would still be defacing CTA property,” he said.