Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) is organizing a petition drive aimed at pressuring the Chicago Police Department to re-open the shuttered Wood Street station — as a satellite location at the very least — to combat a surge in violent crime tied to a reduction in police manpower.
When the Wood, Prairie and Belmont district stations were closed five years ago, local aldermen were assured there would be no corresponding loss in police manpower.
But Hopkins argued Tuesday that’s precisely what happened — to the tune of up to 100 fewer officers — in neighborhoods like Ukrainian Village, West Town and parts of Wicker Park once served by the Wood Street station.
That’s even as Mayor Rahm Emanuel vows to deliver on his two-year promise to add 970 additional Chicago Police officers over and above attrition.
“It’s left some other neighborhoods vulnerable and exposed. And we can’t have that,” he said.
Hopkins pointed to what happened last Friday after a 31-year-old Ukrainian Village woman was sexually assaulted at 6:30 a.m. while waiting for a bus at the corner of Chicago and Oakley.
“Someone driving by was looking at the news vans instead of watching the road and caused a serious collision with injuries. It took 30 minutes for the police to arrive on the scene. While we were standing there discussing the shortage of police manpower, a dramatic real-time example unfolded before our very eyes. This is unacceptable. It’s been going on far too long,” Hopkins said.
“Criminals feel emboldened. They know that police patrols are down. Their chances of getting apprehended are much slimmer than they used to be. So they’re acting with impunity. Carjackings, armed robberies and takeover armed robberies — where offenders barge into a nail salon, hair salon or small apparel boutique, rob all the customers and flee with their purses and jewelry — are up dramatically. We can’t have that. We need a greater show of force. … Re-opening the 13th District as a satellite office would show a commitment to that.”
Since the 2012 station closing, the Wood Street station has been used by the warrants division of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. The building at 937 N. Wood remains half-empty. There is no Chicago Police presence.
At the very least, Hopkins’ petition drive calls for the building to be turned into a satellite office where detectives could work on local cases, a desk sergeant would take reports from local residents and patrol officers would have a “visible presence.”
“It would be a symbol to the community that they have not been abandoned by the Chicago Police Department,” Hopkins said.
Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi had no immediate comment on Hopkins’ petition drive.
During City Council budget hearings, Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) urged Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to take a fresh look at Emanuel’s 2012 station closings, the first in more than 50 years.
Johnson said he would “re-visit that.”
Hopkins said he got the idea for the petition drive when he heard that the Civilian Office of Police Accountability was planning to open satellite offices throughout the city.
“If we’re opening up more facilities for people to come in and complain about the police, why can’t we open more facilities for people to report criminal activity?” Hopkins said.
Hopkins isn’t the only aldermen complaining about violent crime.
Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and grandson of former Mayor Richard J. Daley, said this week he’s “deeply concerned about the recent spike” in Bridgeport crime that included a Monday morning carjacking and a Dec. 1 home invasion.
“We ask all of our neighbors to continue to stay vigilant and take every precaution to keep themselves and all of our neighbors safe,” Thompson was quoted as saying.
He could not be reached for comment.
As of Feb. 21, the Chicago Police Department had 12,051 officers, 7,251 of them or just over 60 percent assigned to districts. The Harrison and Englewood Districts–where shootings are homicides have declined dramatically–led the city, with 462 and 426 officers respectively.
The Albany Park and Shakespeare Districts had the fewest number of officers with 246 and 243 officers respectively.