When a man climbed into the control cabin of a Blue Line train Friday night, CPD needed 15 minutes to find an available cop

You might think that the Chicago Police Department could muster a quick response upon hearing that a man had climbed into the operator’s cabin of a CTA train with passengers aboard. But, when that actually happened on Friday evening, a police dispatcher needed 15 minutes to find a unit that could respond to the call.

It all started around 7:36 p.m. at the Cicero Blue Line station at 720 South Cicero Avenue.

Police said the train operator had her window open as she opened the doors at the station. A 30-year-old man on the platform decided to crawl through the window and into the control booth, CPD said.

Within moments of the incident, just before CTA’s call for help came in, a dispatcher announced that the local police district was in a “backlog,” meaning there weren’t enough cops to handle pending calls for service. 

Here’s how that sounded (we edited out the addresses for the domestic incidents in these audio clips):

Audio via CrimeIsDown.com

The dispatcher made her first attempt to find a unit to take the CTA intruder call at 7:41 p.m. and found no takers:

Audio via CrimeIsDown.com

Then, she tried again one minute later at 7:42 p.m.:

Audio via CrimeIsDown.com

A full 11 minutes later, the dispatcher read it out again. Still pending, she said:

Audio via CrimeIsDown.com

Finally, at 7:56 p.m., a police unit became available, and she assigned the incident to them:

Audio via CrimeIsDown.com

CPD issued a statement overnight that said the train operator “quickly became aware of what was occurring” when the man crawled into her booth “and was able to power down and properly secure the train before exiting with the keys.”

Police eventually arrested the suspect nearby based on a description provided on police radios, the department said. Charges are pending.

The untimely police response was first noticed by @WindyCityWxMan on Twitter.

CPD districts entered backlogs, also known as “Radio Assignments Pending” status 11,721 times last year, according to information Wirepoints obtained via a Freedom of Information request. That was nearly as many times as 2019 and 2020 combined, according to the data.

Last year, 52% of the city’s highest-priority 911 calls were received during backlogs, Wirepoints found.

The Chicago Police Department currently has 11,628 officers on the force, according to the Chicago Office of the Inspector General. That’s down from 12,255 one year ago and 13,251 in July 2019.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com