Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) urged the Chicago Police Department on Wednesday to dispatch additional manpower to the downtown area and along the lakefront to stop marauding groups of young people hell-bent on causing trouble.
“If you look at the social media pages, it’s pretty clear what the intent is when the kids are coming downtown. It’s not just to hang out and have a fun time. It’s to cause trouble and see what they can get away with,” Reilly said.
“Downtown officers are in a difficult position. … It’s not against the law to come down in a large group and walk around as long as you’re not trying to create mayhem, hurt other people, trespass or steal property. But the answer is more police resources — not just in the Central Business District, but along the entire lakefront.”
Last summer, Reilly made an “urgent request” for more overnight police patrols on the lakefront trail, the downtown Riverwalk and in Streeterville after a 25-year-old Lawndale woman was shot and killed.
Reilly also requested improved lighting, additional surveillance cameras and the overnight shutdown during warm weather months of an underpass at Ohio and Lake Shore Drive used to access the beach, the Lakefront Trail and Navy Pier.
On Wednesday, Reilly said the long and sultry Memorial Day weekend that saw Chicago Police struggle to control large groups of teenagers near Water Tower Place and along the lakefront underscores the need for additional officers.
That’s on top of more than 1,000 additional officers assigned to work overtime over a long holiday weekend that ended with seven people dead and 22 wounded.
“The administration has been shifting more police resources downtown. … But I hope that trend continues. … Whatever the superintendent can do to shift even more resources downtown would be appreciated,” he said.
“The hope is we’ll continue to get additional overtime resources to help manage massive crowds on the lakefront. Downtown and the beaches are where people want to be in the warm weather months. We need proper police staffing to keep it safe.”
Reilly said he believes the Chicago Police Department has the “right strategies in place” to deal with marauding groups of teenagers assembled by social media.
He has no problem with the tactic of reducing arrests and, instead, walking alongside young people who may not have committed a crime, but appear to be intimidating law-abiding citizens and steering them to CTA buses and rapid transit stations.
That’s a strategy begun under fired Chicago Police Superintendent-turned-mayoral challenger Garry McCarthy.
“My preference is that, if officers are witnessing crimes being committed that they arrest for those crimes,” Reilly said.
“But in order to arrest people as you see crimes being committed, you need resources to back-fill those officers when they’re off the street processing the alleged offender. I don’t want to have us in a position where officers are having to make difficult choices between locking up someone who is committing crime, and staying on the beat to prevent additional crimes from occurring.”
Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, called the decision to steer young people accused of “borderline criminal behavior” to CTA buses and trains troubling to say the least.
“Who determines who’s forced onto the train? What’s the basis for that? What does it mean that there was `near criminal behavior.’ There’s just a lot of questions about who made the decision to get a train and send it on an express line south and where it stopped,” Yohnka said.
“What happens if a kid is in that group, gets swept up in that, but they’re really from the North Side? It’s all a little bit confusing, and at the same time, troubling. We’ve seen a history in this city of policing based on street sweeps. There’s a danger that you begin to separate people out from a crowd because of their age and the color of their skin.”
Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in addition to the summer mobile patrol of 100 officers “exclusively dedicated to the lakefront and neighborhood parks,” the 18th and 1st Districts have received “between 25 and 30 new officers so far” this year.
CPD has also “set up dedicated patrols for the downtown Riverwalk and surrounding areas,” he said.
“We remain focused on working with the Alderman and community to ensure a safe and enjoyable summer for Chicago residents and visitors,” Guglielmi wrote in an email.