Residents encouraged to work w/CPD at March CAPS Meeting

By Daniel Patton, March 10, 2020

 

Nearly 40 residents attended the March 5 Community Beat Meeting for Chicago Police Beats 1831 through 1834  — which includes the Magnificent Mile, River North, and Streeterville.

Hosted by the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) on the second floor of Access Living (115 W. Chicago Ave.), the semi-monthly gathering addresses resident concerns through “a partnership between police and community,” according to the Chicago Police website.

CPD Sergeant Christopher Schenk and Officer Alfred Robinson were on hand to represent the Chicago Police Department.  

Beat meeting facilitator Craig Kaiser opened the proceedings with an explanation of the “ground rules” — one person speaks at a time, ask questions with respect, etc.  Then he presented the statistics of crime reported between January and March 2020 with the same time frame from last year.

Although theft, deceptive practice, and robbery have declined, incidents of battery and criminal damage to property have increased.

Responding to an attendee’s enquiry, Officer Robinson offered a general description of the differences between theft and robbery: theft occurs when an item is stolen from a retail establishment; robbery occurs when something is stolen from a person.

Officer Robinson also noted that the CPD received more than 17,000 calls for service over the past three months and encouraged attendees to report crime when they see or suspect it.

“The more calls we get, the better off we are,” he said. “Don’t think that your call isn’t necessary.”

He followed with a presentation of the CPD’s Court Advocacy program.

The Court Advocacy program allows residents to show solidarity and support by monitoring individual suspects and attending their trials. To date, it has registered more than 80 residents while following more than 50 cases.

Suspects currently being monitored include Eric Creech, who is charged with armed robbery; and Jaquan Washington, charged with two acts of murder, three acts of attempted murder, and three acts of aggravated discharge.

Residents interested in becoming Courtroom Advocates must complete an application and attend a 30-40-minute training seminar, Officer Robinson continued. Upon approval, they receive a badge and the privilege of expedited courtroom access.

Next on the agenda, Kaiser updated the concerns expressed during the previous meeting. Complaints of “repeat offenders” congregating near McDonald’s at Chicago Ave. and State St. persist; but the “significant” number of cell phone robberies reported near Chestnut and DeWitt, including one that involved battery, “seems to have disappeared.”

When he introduced the Open Forum, attendees described three main concerns.

Mail theft is on the rise. According to one attendee, alleged perpetrators have obtained a copy of the Post Officer’s “master key” and have stolen from at least fifty buildings.

Young people in a sport utility vehicle (SUV) have been following residents around the neighborhood, noted another attendee. The comment elicited quick response from Sergeant Schenk, who advised people to “call 911 and articulate” the situation while walking towards an area of 24-hour safety if they think they are being followed.

 “Know where your local hospital, fire house, and police stations are located,” he added. “Northwestern University works with the CPD, and Loyola security are certified police officers.”

Offenders are not detained after being arrested, according to another attendee, adding that the situation has forced some people to stay home at night. Officer Robinson explained that judges, not police, determine what happens to an alleged perpetrator after they are arrested.

“I’ve arrested people with, like, 64 (previous) arrests,” he continued, “and I’m like, how are you out?”

He advised residents to subscribe to the Community Alerts issued by the CPD and added that, “if you hear or see something during a crime, describe it to the police.” Finally, an attendee asked for advice on what to do when a scene erupts on the CTA Red Line. Sergeant Schenk advised that riders to locate the “panic button” affixed to the walls of every CTA car. When activated, the button connects to the conductor and to the Office of Emergency Management & Communications (OEMC), which handles the city’s 911 calls.

Residents urged to report rental scooters if found within loop

(Published Aug. 1, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine

During the July CAPS meeting, police addressed safety concerns. 

Many residents said they noticed heavy motorcycle traffic over the Fourth of July weekend. One resident reported seeing hundreds of motorcycles on Lake Shore Dr. heading north. Another resident was concerned about the motorcycles on Lower Wacker Dr. wondered if the police could reallocate officers to patrol the area. 

Officers Veronica Meraz and Necole Bryson informed residents that there is currently a Thursday to Sunday initiative on Lower Wacker to watch for any illegal motorcycle activity. They also believe there has been a decrease in motorcycle activity, due to increased police presence, and the department does not receive as many complaints. As for any other motorcycle incidents, Bryson reminded residents the police need to be informed. 

“What we need you guys to do is call 911 when you see these things,” Bryson said.

Other residents said they feel unsafe in the area. Some are intimidated walking home late in the evening as they did not feel any officers are nearby. 

Bryson assured residents that part of an officer’s job assigned to the area is to patrol. 

“If you need more patrol, we would be happy to do that,” Bryson said. She said patrol officers would be more visible. 

The new electric scooter program was also an issue of concern. Although the scooters are geofenced to certain areas in Chicago and are not permitted in New Eastside, residents have spotted them being used in the neighborhood—and on the lakefront path. A representative from Alderman Reilly’s office recommended residents email photos of any rentable motorized scooters spotted to office@ward42chicago.com.

The officers reminded residents that summertime is full of visitors to our area and to stay vigilant, but to know police are prepared for any number of incidents.

“We want you to feel safe, please call 911. Please use your city services,” Bryson said.

Chicago PD: Downtown festivals go off without incident

By Jesse Wright

Chicago police officers gave New Eastside residents some good news at the monthly CAPS meeting.

Police sergeant Anthony Dombrowski reported June events,  Blues Festival and Gospel Festival, saw few problems, despite drawing large crowds to Millennium Park.

“Things went pretty well in those two events. We had challenges last weekend because there wasn’t just the Blues Festival, there was also a Formula One event at Soldier Field,” Dombrowski said.

In addition, he said the police continue to crack down on people who trespass at Vista Tower. The tower is nearing completion, and Dombrowski said the Vista, which will be one of the tallest buildings in the city, continues to draw explorers.

“We had some incidents at the Wanda Tower” he said, referring to the project by its former name. “We’ve had some young rascals that want to challenge the height of the building. We’ve had people parasail off the building, successfully.”

He said police are arresting people who trespass on the property.

“We had two guys who were intoxicated and decided to climb up the tower,” Dombrowski said. “People in the community started Facebooking this live on their community pages. They did it during the day where it was pretty obvious they were doing it. We arrested both gentlemen who are suburbanites.”

With warmer months, police are also seeing an uptick in drag racing on Lower Wacker Drive. Historically the phenomenon has been a problem and Dombrowski admitted the perpetrators are a challenge for police.

“Frankly, we’re overwhelmed,” he said. “It’s hundreds and hundreds and it’s not the same group every weekend, its different car clubs.”

The drag racing is dangerous for the drivers and for other drivers and it creates noise issues, but Dombrowski said the police have a new strategy to stop the problem before it starts. He told residents that many of the drivers meet in private parking lots prior to drag racing and, if the businesses are closed when they meet, Chicago police are arresting drivers for trespassing. In early June, officers made nine arrests.

“Hopefully it sends a message,” he said. “These aren’t bad kids. These are kids who are into cars and they want to live that lifestyle.”

Dombrowski reminded residents to report any crimes they see or hear. He pointed to some gang graffiti recently removed due to quick reporting from a New Eastside resident.

“If you do see graffiti,” Dombrowski said, “if you can take a picture of it and send it to the alderman’s office and send it to our office and we’ll get rid of it.”

The next CAPS meeting is 6:30 p.m. July 8 at 400 E. Randolph St.

West Loop CAPS meeting touches on thefts, “Coffee With A Cop”

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

(Published March 18, 2019)

Officers for the 12th District hosted a community meeting for beats 1224 and 1231 on Feb. 13. Officer Luis Crespo hosted the meeting at the Chicago Police Training Division at 1300 W. Jackson Blvd., and nine other officers attended to give their input and answer questions from residents.

Crespo announced that residents will have a chance to meet their local officers, ask questions and voice concerns at “Coffee With A Cop” on Feb. 21 at Ella’s Corner, 1258 W. Jackson, at 6 p.m. For more information, contact the 12th District CAPS office at 312-746-8306.

Moving on to crime, Crespo said the most common crime in the district is theft, specifically theft from autos. Since the last CAPS meeting in mid-December, there have been 44 thefts from vehicles in the district, Crespo said. He added that police have been distributing flyers around the neighborhood and on cars warning people about the thefts, and that people should make sure to lock their cars and take out all visible items.

Crespo mentioned a community alert that went out in January warning businesses about burglaries. He said multiple businesses have been hit, and the perpetrator crouches down and hides in the canvas vestibule in front of the door, knocking out lower windows with a crowbar. He said it’s important for businesses to not keep money in the till when they are closed, and to remove the till and place it on the register. Also, businesses should put computers or iPads out of sight and update their camera systems.

Two recently-graduated probationary officers attended the meeting with their field training officer, and they explained how their training and rotations work.

Officers also explained that UIC police officers work with Chicago police officers in a Joint Robbery Task Force. The detectives in this task force have the highest clearance rate in the city, they said.

The manager of a Walgreens asked officers how to best deal with shoplifters. Officers said to let the shoplifter know you’re aware of who they are, and say you are calling the police when they enter the store.

Members of a condo association board asked about people dealing drugs near their building. Officers said to call 911 any time something seems suspicious, and to be very descriptive.

The next beat meeting will be on April 10 at 7 p.m. at 1300 W. Jackson Blvd.

Streeterville CAPS meeting focuses on mob violence

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

The first Streeterville CAPS meeting of the year focused on a flash mob attack in late December that injured bystanders and destroyed property.

At the Jan. 3 CAPS meeting, officers announced one boy, reported to be 15 years old, had been arrested in connection with the flash mob incident. The day after the arrest, police announced the arrest of a second teen, 16. Both have been charged with felony counts of aggravated battery and mob action.

Police have security camera images showing six youths.

Officer Thomas Baker said police are continuing to investigate the mob violence and are planning to distribute images in hopes of getting names.

“Myself and Al, along with the sergeant, we’ve been out passing out these flyers, trying to get more identifiers on these youths,” Baker said. “One has been taken into custody. He’s a juvenile, so we can’t give too much detail because it’s an ongoing investigation. Hopefully this kid will turn on his friends so we can stop this from happening.”

In May 2018, a flash mob of teenagers attacked random people in the Streeterville area and put one man in intensive care, according to media reports.

Sergeant Chris Schenk urged residents to call police if they see the suspects, and he reminded the public not to attempt a citizen’s arrest.

“We don’t want you to take the law into your hands,” he said.

A representative for McDonald’s security and a man from the YMCA said they recognize some of the youths. The McDonald’s security representative said some of the youths are banned from the store.

Schenk said if any of the suspects show up and refuse to leave, security personnel should call 911.

“We don’t want you to get hurt,” Schenk said. “They’re wanted for aggravated battery, and it’s not your simple battery. It’s that they literally jumped on the person or beat the person. It escalated and it’s more or less a felony.”

Following that, officer A. Robinson reminded residents to not leave their cars running because car thefts increase in the wintertime.

“In the wintertime when it gets cold outside, a lot of people leave their cars running with their keys inside,” Robinson said. “If you see someone doing this who lives in your building, try to say something to them. People want to warm the car up, but that’s an opportunity for someone to take it.”

Robinson also told attendees that if they call to report someone to 911, give the dispatcher a description of the suspect’s shoes. He said people can take off a coat or jacket, but people don’t generally get rid of their shoes after a crime.

The next Streeterville CAPS meeting will be March 7 at 6 p.m. at the Access Living building, 115 Chicago Ave. Residents can follow the 18th district on Twitter, or call them at 312-742-5870 and email them at CAPS018district@chicagopolice.org.

[Sergeant Chris Schenk speaks with a Streeterville CAPS meeting attendee. Photo by Jesse Wright]

CPD: Crime down in New Eastside area

By Jesse Wright | staff writer

 

October brought good news to New Eastside residents as Officer Necole Bryson announced crime was down significantly.

“Why? I don’t know, because the weather was warm until this week, she said in early October.

However, Bryson had some ideas. She said crime could be down because there are more officers out and about, and Sgt. Anthony Dombrowski had recently done community safety presentations, so that might have also had a precautionary effect.

Dombrowski, who usually attends this CAPS meeting, was out on vacation this month.

Bryson said small crime, particularly phone snatching, is still a problem because people keep their phones in their back pockets or they stare at their phones as they walk down the street and don’t pay attention.

 

Bucket Boys Noise

In addition, Bryson said as the weather turns colder she expects more car thefts as people leave their cars running to run in and grab a coffee or some other quick thing. Police also warned residents to hide valuables in their cars, and if someone approaches their vehicle, to not roll the window all the way down.

As usual, residents complained about the noise of so-called “bucket boys,” street performers who beat on drums. One woman in the audience said the boys have recently been hired to play at Bulls games.

“The thing about the street performers is, we try not to call them bucket boys,” Bryson said. “Some of them have permits to perform. Not all of them, but some of them do.”

Residents asked if street performers—even those allowed to perform—knew the rules, including the permitted times of performance. People in the audience alleged that some of the performers play past the legal performance time.

Bryson said performers know the rules—the time limits are on the permits—but street performing in tourist areas is lucrative, so even a fine isn’t much of a deterrent.

Still, residents said the noise becomes unbearable, particularly with bands, and one woman suggested the city force the performers to move during the day so that residents wouldn’t be subjected to the noise all day long.

 

Dumpsters Left Trashed

Residents also complained of trashy dumpsters near DePaul and Jackson between State Street and Wabash Avenue.

“It’s mind-boggling how awful it is. It’s like a rat’s nest,” the woman said.

The police informed residents that citations can be given for trashy dumpsters, and residents need only call Alderman Brendan Reilly’s office to complain.

“They can’t have garbage everywhere,” Bryson said. She added that even if the business that owns the dumpster didn’t litter, they’re still responsible for the dumpster and the area.

 

Elevator Going (and Staying) Down

After that, a woman reported that the elevator by Macy’s at the pedway is unreliable. She said her husband depends on a motorized scooter and he cannot use the stairs. Bryson said they’d reach out to Macy’s and “see what’s going on.”

“We have a pretty good relationship with Macy’s,” Bryson said. “They’re pretty reliable.”

 

Summer Success Stories

One resident asked Bryson how the summer was generally.

Bryson said Lollapalooza and the Chicago Marathon both went well, with no major incidents.

“We’re a large event district and we’ve become experts at the things we do,” Bryson explained. “Everyone was on high alert.”

Bryson said the Lollapalooza contract runs through 2021, and at that point they will have to renegotiate with the city.

 

Races Running

In November, the New Eastside will host two races, the Hot Chocolate 15k/5k on Nov. 4 and the Turkey Trot on Nov. 22. The Thanksgiving Day parade will wend its way through the New Eastside on Nov. 22 as well.

 

Coming Up

One area resident announced that the 310 South Michigan building will be getting a new CVS soon.

The next New Eastside CAPS meeting will be Nov. 8 at 400 East Randolph St. In December there will be no CAPS meeting and the January meeting will also be at 400 East Randolph St.

Homeless issues dominate West Loops CAPS meeting

By Jesse Wright | staff writer

 

Most of the complaints at the October West Loop CAPS meeting were given regarding issues of homelessness.

 

Parked for the Night

Residents first complained about the homeless living in neighborhood parks. Sgt. Anthony Dombrowski said he had heard a mattress in the park had been removed, and a woman

corrected him and said two couch cushions had been in Harrison Park and they had been used for sleeping, but she’d removed them herself.

“I won’t be doing that again,” she said. “But I bagged them and disposed of them.”

Dombrowski said being homeless isn’t a crime in and of itself, so the police have a hard time addressing the issue.

“We don’t want to have people sleeping in the parks, but there are some systemic homeless issues in our district and people need a place to sleep,” he said. “It’s a challenge as a police department because we don’t want to criminalize homelessness.”

Another woman said she’d spoken with some of the homeless people and they seemed to have no desire to find other accommodations. She said one “young man” said he got a mattress from Presidential Towers, an apartment complex in the West Loop.

“I went to their dumpster and found it empty except for a nice mattress,” she said.

“I’d rather sleep on a mattress than the ground,” Dombrowski said.

 

Mental Mess

A man in the crowd said he’s from State Place Condominiums. Roughly a couple of dozen people then raised their hands and said they, too, were from State Place.

“We have a problem with people with mental health issues going into our lobby [and] smearing feces around. What can we do to help you solve this problem or make it a little more livable?” the man asked the police officers.

A woman who identified herself as the property manager said one woman in particular visits a public lobby on the premises, and if she is asked to leave, she will urinate on the ground or smear feces on the wall.

Officer Necole Bryson said officers did investigate the situation but, as with homelessness, the issue is more of a social welfare issue than a policing issue.

“Locking an individual like that up and putting her in jail for two or six hours isn’t going to fix the issue,” Dombrowski said.

He said just because a person is mentally ill doesn’t mean the person belongs in jail.

“We can’t arrest a person who is mentally ill,” he said. “We will take them to the hospital. … We have certain entities within the city that might be better able to address that. Mental illness is a complex issue and we don’t have the tools to address it.”

Dombrowski said even if the woman were arrested, she’d be out in a few hours anyway.

“We can remove her, but then what happens? She comes back,” Dombrowski said.

Bryson said the police would give the property more no trespassing signs and Dombrowski said 7-Eleven has been known to play music to keep the homeless away.

“Especially if it’s the same loop over and over again. People get annoyed,” he said. “There are also certain lights—and we don’t recommend using them because it’s akin to torture—but they take away all color so all you see is grays. And that’s very uncomfortable for people.”

Bryson also suggested starting a block club to increase safety.

“Maybe start a walking club,” she said. “Identify things in the community that could be different and that you can work with us on.”

Another woman asked who residents could call to help the mentally ill woman.

“The fire department, if it’s a medical emergency,” Dombrowski said.

“Mental health services are very limited in the state of Illinois,” Bryson said. “A lot of funding has been cut. … As it is now, Cook County Jail is probably the largest provider of mental health treatment in Chicago and maybe in Illinois.”

One woman in the audience suggested calling Thresholds, a nonprofit provider of mental health services.

“They have a nurse and other health care professionals that will go out and assess a person’s needs,” she said. But, she added, she talked to people living under a underpass and they told her they don’t want help.

“They have to want to be helped. A doctor can’t force it. A police officer can’t help. They have to want help,” Dombrowski said.

On the Near West Side, the Pacific Guard Mission on Canal Street is the closest shelter, but Bryson said if the person has caused problems in the past, they’re banned and not allowed back.

“A lot of the homeless, they don’t want to obey rules. They want freedom,” Dombowski said.

 

Autotraumatic

Toward the end of the meeting, residents asked about a shooting inside a car on Sept. 30 that killed two people and injured two more. Dombowski said the car was passing through the area, had nothing to do with residents in the area and didn’t wound any area residents.

There were five people in the car, and just prior to midnight, they got into an argument and then someone in the car began shooting.

“With the availability of guns, that’s what happens,” Dombrowski said.

The next meeting is Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at 525 S State St.

 

Streeterville officers vow to crack down on drug sales, seek help from residents

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Published Oct. 2, 2018

At their September meeting, CAPS police officials told Streeterville residents they were cracking down on drug dealers and buyers in the area.

 

Officer Thomas Baker said officers are trying to make cases against drug distribution networks, as opposed to people merely carrying illicit substances. However, he said, police need assistance from residents – “Our biggest thing is we obviously need help from the community, especially when you guys see everything,” Baker said.

 

The police action comes amid community concerns that drug activity is getting worse. One resident said open drug sales along Chicago Avenue are becoming problematic. Baker suggested forming block clubs that could create email and phone trees to channel information to police regarding problematic areas, and said police could help set up the clubs.

 

“We can train you, if need be, if you have a community room available,” he said.

 

A private security officer in the audience said drug dealers are selling to students, starting fights and criminally trespassing on the property of the Chicago Avenue McDonald’s where he works. Baker said police would soon hold meetings with the city attorney to find ways to more effectively stop drug sellers from loitering near a methadone clinic in the area.

 

Sergeant Christopher Schenk said residents safely taking pictures of drug deals and illicit activity could help arresting officers. “I don’t want you to put yourself in harm’s way,” Shenk said. “I have to say that. But if they have photos or anything they can take, or information that could help us out, that would be great.”

 

The officers added that anyone who has crime tips or would like more information can contact law enforcement for non-emergency situations at (312) 742-5778 or CAPS.018district@chicagopolice.org.

 

The next CAPS meeting is set for 6 p.m. on Oct. 4 at 115 W. Chicago Ave.