Man sexually molested girl on Brown Line train in Lakeview, cops say — but why won’t they release images of the offender?

A southbound Brown Line train arrives at Belmont station in March 2018. | File

Update 8:30 p.m. — About 12 hours after our report below, CPD decided to release a set of six crystal-clear CTA surveillance images of the alleged offender. See our update and the photos here.

A CTA passenger helped a 16-year-old girl escape from a man who touched her inappropriately and held her against her will aboard a Brown Line train in Lakeview on Saturday morning, police said.

Yet, despite years of reported upgrades to the CTA’s surveillance camera network, the police department did not release a single photo of the offender in a community alert distributed to media late Saturday night.

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Police said the man approached the victim and asked for her phone number around 8:45 a.m. on the southbound platform at the Belmont station, 945 West Belmont.

The girl, described as a “student” in the alert, then boarded a Brown Line train and noticed the same man was in her rail car, staring at her. 

He sat next to the girl, put his arm around her lower waist, and inappropriately touched her while holding her against her will, investigators said in the alert. 

Another CTA passenger intervened in the assault, which allowed the girl to escape from the man’s grasp, the alert continued.

Police said the offender exited the train when it arrived at the Quincy station.

According to the alert, he is a black man between 30- and 40-years-old, who stands 5’10” to 6-feet tall, weighs 170 pounds, and has a short afro hairstyle. He wore a gray cap and a black jacket with a “CHAMPION” logo on the front.

Anyone with information about the offender can contact Area Central detectives at 312-744-8261 regarding case number JC-546550.

Not one image

Police did not release a single image of the man who attacked the girl Saturday despite having access to CTA’s massive surveillance camera network that included 32,000 separate feeds as of April.

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a long series of press conferences to tout the transit agency’s security camera upgrades beginning almost immediately after he took office in 2011.

“One legacy of Rahm Emanuel is digitally clear,” the New York Times wrote in Nov. 2011. “Security cameras will follow us like a bad credit rating.”

“Last week,” the paper continued, “the mayor stood with Police Chief Garry McCarthy, and Forrest Claypool, the head of the Chicago Transit Authority, as they rightly praised rapid installation of another 1,700 C.T.A security cameras.”

Shortly before Emanuel’s second term ended earlier this year, his office issued a press release headlined, “Mayor Emanuel and CTA Announce Entire Rail System Now 100 Percent Equipped with High-Definition Cameras.”

It was the last in a flurry of related press releases and media events the city created to tout transit surveillance cameras during his tenure as mayor.

A CTA press release in May 2014 hailed the installation of cameras “in every train,” an achievement that then-CTA President Forrest Claypool said, “put criminals on notice.” 

Emanuel corraled the media again to tout CTA’s surveillance cameras in May 2018

Another CTA press release in Aug. 2018 said cameras were “found at every rail station and on every bus and train.”

Two months later,  CTA announced 500 more cameras had been installed.

But what good are all of those cameras if, rather than simply sharing an image of a known offender, the police department only provides a written description? 

When you have a photograph of something, do you tell people what it looks like, or do you just show it to them? 

But CPD has never fully embraced the “power of the crowd” and social media as tools to capture wanted offenders. 

Detectives haven’t shared video of any criminal suspect on the department’s YouTube channel in over a month. Their most YouTube video of wanted offenders that includes CTA surveillance images was posted on Oct. 5. 

The department’s Facebook page hasn’t included a surveillance video of any wanted offender since Nov. 1.

CPD’s frequent failure to engage the public with video and images as it searches for offenders stands in stark contrast to many of the department’s peers.

The New York City Police Department Tweets video and still images of wanted persons daily. 

Philadelphia police tweeted four videos of four separate wanted offenders on Friday alone.

And PPD’s YouTube channel is filled with fresh videos showing offenders wanted for everything from shootings to robbery to package theft.

If those departments can actively round up footage from businesses, homes, and other sources for timely distribution, why isn’t Chicago’s police department releasing video of CTA offenders when the agency’s camera web is said to be high-definition and impossible to avoid?

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