Unarmed martial arts and security volunteers are patrolling Chicago's transit system as 'violence interrupters' to beef up security

Unarmed martial arts and security volunteers are patrolling Chicago's transit system as 'violence interrupters' to beef up security
Passengers wait at the Chicago Transit Authority subway station at Chicago's Lake station, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021.Shafkat Anowar/AP
  • A group of unarmed veterans and martial arts volunteers have started patrolling Chicago's transit system.
  • The Chicago Transit Authority reported a 17% year-over-year increase in crime on trains and buses.

A group of unarmed martial arts and security volunteers have started patrolling Chicago's transit system in an effort to take safety into their own hands.

"By the time police get called, somebody's already been hurt," Tio Hardiman, the leader of the Violence Interrupters, told ABC 7 Chicago. "My staff are trained in de-escalating situations, so if we see somebody that wants to assault somebody, we are just going to intervene."

The group patrolled Chicago Transit Authority's Red Line on Friday, going from car to car and making their presence known, per ABC 7.

"We're not the police. We're not vigilantes. We're out to try and make sure that people feel safe when they are boarding CTA trains," Hardiman told the outlet.

Last month, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced new safety measures in concert with the CPD and the CTA, dedicating more officers and unarmed private security guards to patrol trains and buses. The plan also utilized resources from CPD's Bureau of Counterterrorism to address gang and drug crimes in the transit system.


Chicago reported a 17% increase in crime on its trains and buses compared to last year. The Chicago Police Department has been unable to apprehend perpetrators in a spate of recent violent attacks on CTA riders, CBS News reported earlier this month.

"Having a visible presence of guards is an important deterrent to misbehavior and also helps demonstrate our commitment to addressing our riders' concerns," CTA President Dorval Carter, Jr. said at the time, per the press release.

CTA, CPD, and Lightfoot's office did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Hardiman told NBC 5 Chicago that his volunteers are preventing crime is the focus for his volunteers, saying they've been trained as "violence interrupters" with backgrounds in martial arts and as veterans.

"We want to be proactive and preemptive. We don't want things to get bad before we do something, things are already getting bad," Hardiman told NBC 5. "Put yourself in the shoes of some working-class person, getting up to go to work and someone gets up in your face on the train."


In response to NBC 5, a CPD spokesperson said transit riders should call 911 if they witness criminal or suspicious activity.

"The police do not need private citizens taking law enforcement matters into their own hands," CPD spokesperson Tom Ahern told NBC 5.

Hardiman told Insider that he respects the police and wants to work collaboratively with them.

"By the time somebody calls 911, that means a crime has already been committed," Hardiman said. "It's not like we don't respect the work of the police, but our whole goal and purpose is to minimize any threats or minimize any type of harm that's done to a passenger that boards the train."

Hardiman told Insider that if someone is "thinking about trying to hurt somebody, they may change their mind when they see us on the train."


"We play a dual role. We've got relationships with some young guys that try to create problems on the trains and we plan to do extensive outreach to them," Hardiman said. "The police, they do the best they can do, but I'm getting tired of hearing stories where people have been assaulted on the trains, and women got their purses snatched, their cell phones taken, beat up on the train."