Pickpockets return to CTA after taking time off for COVID

Chicago police say these pickpockets stole a woman’s wallet at the Monroe Blue Line station last week. | CPD

It’s been a long time since Chicago police warned about pickpockets on the CTA train system, possibly because it is harder for the thieves to operate with ridership severely depressed since COVID.

But a two-man pickpocket team is apparently giving it the old college try. CPD released surveillance images of the duo on Wednesday, saying they slipped a woman’s wallet from her purse as she boarded a Blue Line train at Monroe around 4:45 p.m. on August 17.

Tips about the thieves can be given to detectives at 312-745-4706. Refer to case JF-360401.

There were 151 pocket pickings reported on CTA this year through August 15, up from 88 at this point last year and 199 during the same period in 2020. That’s according to the city’s own data.

But before COVID, there were far more incidents: 529 cases by this point in 2019 and 568 as of August 15, 2018.

That sharp dive, along with lax enforcement of turnstile jumping, and fewer graffiti reports, has been the driving force behind an overall reduction in crime reports on the CTA system during the COVID era.

CPD Supt. David Brown often refers to the crime “drop” in 2021 compared to 2019 as he tries to convince the public that the transit system is safe. But violent crime, the type of crime that people really care about, is up sharply despite a 50% decline in ridership compared to pre-pandemic times.

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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