In the wake of a recent string of late-night and early-morning armed robberies in Lakeview, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) hosted a midnight march through his North Side ward Friday, in an effort to heighten awareness of the area’s crime hot spots.
"Community walks are an important and effective tool to promote safety and bring neighbors together,” Tunney said in a statement. “Community involvement is a critical component to fighting crime and Friday’s walk showed that we mean business when it comes to public safety."
Starting promptly at midnight on Friday, Tunney was joined by roughly 30 community residents and police officers for an hour-long march through the neighborhood, where two gun-wielding men have staged six robberies in the last three weeks.
“Safety is our number one priority and this walk showed that community is serious when it comes to securing our neighborhood,” said Erin Duffy, director of community outreach for Tunney’s office, who participated in the march that took place just hours before the start of Boystown's Northalsted Market Days Festival.
Duffy, who called the demonstration a “positive loitering walk”, said the neighborhood’s highlighted areas of concern include Halsted Street, between Addison Street and Belmont Avenue, and the corner of Belmont Avenue and Sheffield Avenue. Those particular crime hot spots, she said, are “entertainment areas” with late-night bars that draw people from all over Chicago to the community, increasing the probability for misconduct.
Duffy added that, at a Chicago Alternative Police Strategy (CAPS) meeting last week, community residents received a promise from the Chicago Police Department (CPD) that the neighborhood would soon see an increased police presence and more foot patrol officers on the streets.
Nearly 100 community residents attended the meeting and called for more police officers in the Lakeview area, according to DNAinfo.
“We’ve been working really close with the commander on these issues,” Duffy said.
In the past 90 days, Lakeview’s police beat 1924 has led the city in robberies, which reached 44 on Sunday. Falling in second place is Roseland’s police beat 0511, on the city’s South Side, which had seen 39 robberies by the end of the weekend.
At 119 incidents in the last 12 months, CPD beat 1924 fell in at fifth place for robberies in the city of Chicago. Of the city’s 279 police beats, the South Side's Chatham beat 0623 had the most robberies in the last 365 days, with 156 cases.
“We have a quite a bit of opportunity up here for these criminals to capitalize on,” said Sergeant Jason Clark, with the CPD’s 19th Police District, who participated in the walk.
With 59 incidents as of Sunday, Lakeview’s beat 1924 had more violent crimes in the last 90 days than any other North Side beat. It is also the only beat from that side of the city to rank in CPD’s top 10 for violent crimes.
“It’s a very congested area, and it’s a large entertainment district,” said Clark. “We have a lot of people that are walking around late at night by themselves and on their phone, so that’s where the opportunity is.”
People talking on a cell phone, or texting, while walking home from the bar, he said, has attracted a lot of criminal activity to the area. It’s like “cash-in-hand” for a mugger or stalker, Clark explained.
He added that the increased number of foot patrol officers in the neighborhood should greatly reduce the area’s crime. But, Clark said, it’s also important for residents to stay aware of their surroundings late at night and for the community to report crimes and keep police informed.
“It’s always good to get the community out together,” he said. “We can establish a good working relationship, get us out together, get us talking and we can show them what we have and they can point out issues and let us know what they need.”
Meanwhile, Greg Rohner, treasurer of the local community organization, the Triangle Neighbors Association (TNA), and a participant in Friday’s walk, said the area would not become a “safe neighborhood or a desirable neighborhood” unless people take the initiative to “step up and take ownership of their community.”
“Did we solve any crimes that night? Probably not, but it was a proactive approach to getting the ultimate goal of a safe neighborhood,” said the resident of Lakeview of 16 years.
He added that too often members of the community “play the blame game.”
“We’re never going to have a police officer on every corner, it’s just not going to happen. We have to be the eyes and ears of the community,” Rohner said. “If something doesn’t look right, we need to be able to recognize it and speak out.”
Living on Cornelia Avenue, he said that he often hears people talking on their phones while walking home late at night. More marches such as Friday’s, he added, could help keep people informed of what to do and what not to do.
“It was great to see the neighbors get out and show solidarity and unity, and really work together,” Rohner said. “Anything that gets people out into the neighborhood, and getting to know other people in the neighborhood, is going to help make this a better place.”
Photo courtesy of the Triangle Neighbors Association (TNA).