Like you, I am very concerned as criminals act with impunity and harass and hurt residents and businesses in the communities. I have been working with the police in the 14th District (Bucktown, Wicker Park, and Logan Square), 18th District (Lincoln Park), and 19th District (Lincoln Park and Lakeview) where we have police beats covering the ward. Police officers are really doing all they can to arrest and deter the carjackers and strong arm robberies. They need help from every citizen to provide the support they need as they work on these crime issues.
These districts have received a larger number of officers, both day and night. The Chicago Police Department has sent in more marked and unmarked tactical cars and added the joint agency carjacking units to work in the area. Even with that additional police presence, people are still committing crimes, and many are teenagers.
I spoke to the Police Superintendent, the Mayor, and local commanders who all agreed for the need to send in the additional officers to the districts. We see a lot of activity on the borders of the districts, i.e. along the highway access. Police officers are tasked with doing legal vehicle stops in these areas.
The US Attorney is helping with prosecutions if they are able to get in on a carjacking case, and there is more of that needed. The new approach to fighting carjackings and violent crimes in this City and County has to be done by a joint effort of all officials, federal, state, county, and city. Our police officers are working hard to prevent, deter, and detain criminals committing these acts of violence.
We could use more help from judges, especially Chief Judge Evans, and we ask them to step up on and hand out more effective sentences or we won't be able to get ahead of the crime wave. Carjackers and other felons know they are not going to be held accountable when they see criminals committing carjackings, "mutual combat", and other violent crimes and there is either no prosecution or strong sentencing involved.
Mayor Lightfoot made a statement this week about no bail for violent criminals, and a moratorium on the use of the Chief Judges' electronic monitoring system for violent criminals. The Mayor is referring to those charged with charged with crimes such as felony, unlawful possession of a weapon, murder, armed vehicular carjacking, and armed robbery.
Many of our neighborhood organizations, starting in Wicker Park/Bucktown, are joining together with many of our ward offices to start a citizen postcard writing campaign to seek accountability from the State's Attorney and judges. Postcards are available at many local businesses and ward offices. The intent is to get information to the Cook County State's Attorney and Cook County judges about the need for a prosecution working with a stronger judiciary on appropriate prosecutions, sentences, and bail. Click here for sample postcard language, and more information about the campaign. Chief Judge Evans is elected by peer judges.
The City Council (and Mayor) have called both the State’s Attorney and Chief Judge to testify at a hearing before yet neither showed up, although the State’s Attorney sent someone to speak. The Chief Judge ignored the calls to have a public discussion about issues he controls such as judicial discretion for sentences, bail, and electronic monitoring. A couple of public discussions people have worked with us on are joint work with County Commissioners on a public safety hearing for the Chief Judge and State's Attorney, as well as one on the facts of electronic monitoring with Sheriff Dart. Sheriff Dart has agreed to a public virtual meeting on January 10 at 5:30 with different government officials. The meeting information is listed below. Please attend to hear the facts from the Sherriff about who is on electronic monitoring and why this program and policy has been widely criticized for it's failures or benefits. Sheriff Dart's office has stated that 75-percent of those on electronic monitoring face violent crime charges, dozens are accused of murder and ordered released anyway. The discussion will clarify some of the facts of that program.
Additionally, some state legislators are working with us in the City Council to review the state crime bill, and see where it requires amendments, especially around vehicular hijacking. Some are also working on an adult liability bill for those who push kids into carjackings or benefit from the proceeds of a carjacking. Others are working on a bill to have cross county prosecutions done by the Illinois Attorney General and neighboring county prosecutors, as opposed to relying on one State's Attorney. We are also working on funding and logistics for upgrading camera systems for the state police to work with CPD.
As to other cameras that help on deterring or solving crimes, I've added, replaced, or upgraded police pod cameras in points of the ward where police thought they would help most, such as at highway entrances and major intersections. Neighboring aldermen are also adding to the camera system to help with tracking or observing problem spots. These cameras include license plate readers. We are also discussing putting in a broader camera coverage system with city, chambers of commerce, and individual businesses along the main streets. Each of these private cameras can tie into the Office of Emergency Management and Communications to allow access when they need it. Camera systems such as those installed in Roscoe Village by the Roscoe Village Neighbors Neighborhood Watch subcommittee are effective in deterring crime or capturing offenders.
We are also asking neighbors for help to rein in and possibly close certain bars on Milwaukee and elsewhere that are attracting gang and other criminal elements every weekend and contributing to the need for police officers to constantly respond to calls for problems there. We received an update about a license revocation regarding Granero on Milwaukee. Granero had several incidents including unlicensed activity, shots fired inside the establishment, and other quality of life problems they pushed on neighbors. The City Law Department worked closely with our office to organize the case, and get the final outcome of license revocation. This should reduce the number of police calls for service related to the illegal activities of that bar's patrons.
Over the past few months, the Chicago Police have also worked to bring other bars into compliance or risk closure. Police implemented a tow zone on 1300-1500 N. Milwaukee this fall to deter hundreds of people from in and out of the City taking over the neighborhood. Police will continue to monitor all vehicles and criminal activity in and around the Damen, Milwaukee, and North intersection to deter gang activity as the parking ban is enforced. I have also been visiting problem bars with the police.
One question about police policy that often comes up is the end to police foot or vehicle chases. Police chases are still allowed and have not been completely banned, but officers have strict protocols they must follow when pursuing a subject and must continually balance their response as they react. The changes are made to address many of the challenges of the consent decree, and the safety of officers and innocent citizens that may be injured or killed in a chase zone leading to legal settlements. All draft and final policies are written up on the police website here and dictate the rules officers must follow.
All three district offices serving the ward have been proactive on violent crimes and have been opening up more discussion in all the beat meetings. Residents and business owners are encouraged to attend all of these meetings to learn more about what they can do to help with crime issues in each neighborhood. Police are often in need of court advocates to show up at court, follow court actions, and show prosecutors and judges that the community wants stronger results in court that protect citizens.
We are working with CAPS to push out a block by block neighbors alert system and asking those who aren’t in touch with neighbors and businesses nearby to share cameras, emails, or text threads, add lights, and make sure all neighbors know each other to strengthen their neighborhood. If your block has this system in place, now is the time to regenerate the effort and get more neighbors together to help.
We are doing all we can within legal limits to try to keep the community safe, but realize we need even more work to stop the crime. I would say that the officers we meet on the street and call practically every day share our concerns and want to end the crime too, but they need everyone's support to do it.
On a final note, a new non-profit organization called the Bucktown Neighbors Association, not affiliated with the Bucktown Community Organization, has paid for a private security company to patrol portions of Bucktown to help deter crime. The same company has been patrolling pockets of several other neighborhoods for many years and is legally licensed by the State of Illinois. After the request to patrol Bucktown to help deter crime, we asked officers of the company to meet with the Chicago Police Department to review their action guidelines including use of force policies as it pertains to off duty police officers. The City Law Department is also reviewing the company's policies for liability, police contract guidelines, and any other potential legal issues for the City and the company. We will provide an update when the review is complete; however, the company is following and meeting existing state law standards. The additional eyes on the street deterring crimes is helpful at this time and we will work with the company to make sure all legal issues are covered.