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Afternoon Edition: Nov. 23, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

Bicycles sit locked up at bike racks at West Balmoral Avenue and North Clark Street in Andersonville on Friday.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 40 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 34. Tomorrow, we could wake up to some snow, which should become all rain by the afternoon. The high will be around 43 degrees.

Top story

Bike thefts jump during pandemic: ‘It’s a huge problem’

As the demand for bikes has skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, Chicago has experienced an uptick in bike thefts this year, newly released statistics show.

So far this year, about 208 bikes have been stolen per month within city limits — an increase from the 195 monthly thefts reported in 2019, according to data we obtained. Many more are not reported, and most are not recovered.

The trend has been felt among bike advocates across the city. The Chicago Stolen Bike Registry, which allows people to report bike thefts so others can keep an eye out for them, told us they’ve received a 48% increase in submissions through October, compared to 2019.

Chicago Police Sgt. Pete Best, of the 1st District, said the bike thefts are part of “a nationwide epidemic,” and that people are stealing the bikes so they can resell them for a quick buck, rather than for personal use.

His district, which covers the Loop and the Near North Side, has seen 12 bike thefts since Sept. 16, prompting Best to send a community alert to residents warning them how to properly secure their bikes.

“A lot of the bikes are being stolen for financial gain. We’ve noticed an uptick in bikes being pawned,’’ he said.

Best said he’s seen more bike thefts reported in an online theft reporting system. Those wanted in the crimes are “are repeat offenders, these guys are not doing it for pure joy; they’re doing it because they’re dependent on some sort of drugs, and they’re selling them for cash or drugs.”

When a stolen bike pops up on an online marketplace, undercover officers will conduct a “buy-bust transaction” to get the bike back and track down the thief, Best said. Otherwise, detectives have to scour pawn shops for stolen goods, including the bikes.

Christina Whitehouse, founder of Bike Lane Uprising, an advocacy group that tracks bike lane obstructions, attributes the spike to a shortage of bikes available at legitimate shops, as a worldwide surge in bike riding has left manufacturers struggling to meet demand. The result, she said, is a boon in the used bike market and a spike in prices.

“Right now, it’s a huge problem that the bikes are being stolen, because there’s so many people in a level of desperation that are just trying to maintain safe transit to get to and from work and critical resources around the city,” Whitehouse said. “They’re trying to avoid public transit and also don’t have the income to be riding public transit, so the bikes are the only opportunity they have.”

Between January and June, CTA ridership dropped to about one-third of what it had been before the pandemic, data shows.

The story doesn’t end here. Read Sam Kelly’s full report.

More news you need

  1. Chicago reached 700 homicides this year during a violent weekend that saw six people killed and 46 wounded — the second time the city reached the milestone in two decades. The city has seen a 53% increase in shootings and murders this year compared to the same period in 2019.
  2. State public health officials reported 8,322 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 today as well as 47 additional deaths. As of Sunday night, 6,171 people with the virus were reportedly hospitalized across Illinois.
  3. Nearly 700 nursing home workers walked off the job this morning at Infinity Healthcare Management facilities across the Chicago area, saying they won’t return until the company offers them higher wages and safer working conditions amid the pandemic. Infinity Healthcare Management operates 11 nursing homes in Illinois.
  4. City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin terminated four of her employees, including her chief of staff, in a surprise move the week before Thanksgiving. She said the staffing changes were intended “to create a better fit between our agenda and the personnel needed to carry it out.”
  5. On the eve of a final budget vote that is not in doubt, Mayor Lori Lightfoot was accused of using strong-arm tactics to round up City Council votes for her $12.8 billion pandemic budget. Black Lives Matter, the Grassroots Collaborative, DefundCPD Campaign and United Working Families put the mayor on blast, and aldermen who “cave” to mayoral pressure on notice.
  6. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced a new legal assistance initiative today geared towards helping residents facing evictions, foreclosures or unresolved debt issues during the coronavirus pandemic. The Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt initiative is the latest effort to help alleviate some of the economic stresses caused by the coronavirus.

A bright one

She’s known as Captain Kelly — one of the few women at the helm of a yacht in Chicago

Kelly Gordon regularly is asked, “Hey, can I speak to the captain?”

“That’s me,” she replies with an amused smile on her face.

Gordon, 39, is the captain of Corporate Retreat, a private 75-foot luxury yacht that docks at Burnham Harbor, just east of Soldier Field, every summer.

“You don’t see a large amount of women taking boats out for fun and even less as working captains,” Gordon said. “I can count them probably on one hand, maybe two.”

Gordon’s first mate is also a woman, Gianna Mesi. The 22-year-old grew up in Park Ridge, lives in Lincoln Park and studies business administration at DePaul University when she’s not on the boat.

Capt. Kelly Gordon, left, and first mate Gianna Mesi.
Provided

Each year, when the weather gets cold, Gordon pilots the yacht out of Chicago and onto a series of waterways, including the Mississippi River, en route to the boat’s winter home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“At harbors along the way, girls come up to us and just want to talk to us about what we do and ask if they can do it, too, and Kelly will often give them a tour of the boat,” said Mesi, who’s headed to the Sunshine State with Gordon and the boat’s chef, Shane Hughes.

Gordon, who grew up on a farm in a small town in Indiana, takes every opportunity she can to introduce captaining as a realistic and exciting profession to women and girls.

“There’s a bit of an intimidation factor,” she said. “It’s perceived as a man’s position. It can be daunting learning how to move a large vessel around. … So I share my story and let other young women know this is something they can do, and I try to inspire them.”

Read Mitch Dudek’s full story here.

From the press box

They’re still dreaming. The White Sox were supposed to play the Yankees in Iowa last summer in the Field of Dreams game, but the coronavirus pandemic scrubbed those plans. Major League Baseball has now rescheduled the game for next Aug. 12.

Bears receiver Allen Robinson hasn’t let his up-in-the-air contract status affect how he approaches games this season.

And up in Evanston, the unbeaten Northwestern football team is No. 11 in the nation, the Wildcats’ highest ranking in 24 years. Despite their success, NU is still looking for respect.

Your daily question ☕

How do you feel about Chicago’s first real snow of the season possibly arriving tomorrow?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Friday, we asked you: What’s something you do for fun on weekends, while the usual entertainment, like going to restaurants and bars, is unavailable?

“It’s the perfect time to catch up on a good book, and meal prep for the next week.” — Giovanni Hale

“Find a recipe from another country and cook it. It has to be something unfamiliar, like from Azerbaijan or Chad. Many stores carry ingredients in bulk, that you can only buy a little bit of, like spices and such, so you don’t have to buy a whole jar, in case you don’t really like the dish, but at least you tried it!” — Laura Canales

“Same thing I did before the pandemic: Read books, listen to music, watch movies in my own home and play the occasional video game. Some people just don’t like going out.” — Nancy Yetter Schultz

“Bonfires, Zoom game nights, movie nights snuggled at home with my babies.” — Jessica Cortés-Negrón

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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