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Photo by Steven Dahlman

(Above) 18th District Police Commander Paul Bauer speaks at the annual meeting of River North Residents Association on November 14.

Police commander frustrated with system he says puts criminals back on street

20-Nov-17 – Arrests are up from last year but it’s what happens after an arrest that frustrates the commander of downtown Chicago’s 18th police district.

Commander Paul Bauer says there is a “high bar to prosecution” in Cook County, requiring Chicago police to get approval from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office before a suspect can be charged.

“Sometimes they want to come out and...talk to the victim,” said Bauer at the annual meeting of River North Residents Association. “If you think about it, we’re sometimes victimizing this person twice. You just got your phone snatched from you. You got knocked down. Now you’re going to be in the station. You got to stay here for another couple hours until the State’s Attorney gets out here.”

Stretching from the Chicago River north to Fullerton Avenue, the 18th police district had 13,185 reported crimes last year, according to City of Chicago data, and there was an arrest in 1,897 of those cases or about 14 percent. So far this year, 12,777 crimes have been reported and an arrest made in 1,932 cases or about 15 percent.

Photo by Steven Dahlman (Left) Then just captain, Paul Bauer (at left) inspects police officers at an outdoor roll call on East Hubbard Street on March 9, 2016. (Click on image to view larger version.)

According to Bauer, 75 percent of the crime in the 18th district is theft-related, whether it’s a theft from a building or theft from a person, including a suspect who, while riding a bicycle, recently swiped mobile phones from people in River North.

“We caught that guy,” recalled Bauer, “and we figured he did about 30 [robberies] over the course of a couple months. We were only able to charge him with one felony theft [because] victim identification was a little hazy.”

Another man, named Willie, previously convicted for numerous burglaries, was caught but allowed back on the street three days later, electronically monitored, such as an ankle monitor, while waiting for court dates.

“Even when we catch somebody,” says Bauer, “there’s still a long way to go to get them off the street.”

In August, Chief Judge Timothy Evans replaced all of the judges who presided over bond hearings in Cook County and directed new judges to set bail in amounts more affordable to defendants. This is at odds with Chicago police, who would prefer to see higher bail amounts for career criminals.

“That guy, Willie, he’s a case in point. He needs a high bond. We got him for a number of burglaries. He’s on parole for burglary. He needs to sit. We got to get him off the street. It’s just like if you have kids, if there’s no consequences to your action, those actions are going to repeat.”

And when they do go to jail, they need to stay there longer.

“The Sheriff of Cook County, for whatever reason, is very proud of the fact he has reduced the population of the county jail. Maybe I’m jaded, I don’t think that’s anything to be proud of.”

(Right) Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart in Governing magazine. Photo by David Kidd.

Photo by David Kidd

Bauer would like to see more career criminals in jail. “You can say, we don’t know if that’s going to reduce recidivism. This is how I look at it, I want them off the street. We’re not talking about the guy that stole a loaf of bread from the store to feed his family. We’re talking about career robbers, burglars, drug dealers. These are all crimes against the community. They need to be off the street.”

It is frustration police deal with every day as they try to make communities safe, says Bauer.

“This has been going on for quite some time but it’s getting worse.”

Advice for condo residents: Lock your door, be suspicious

Bauer says many burglaries in downtown Chicago involve unlawful entry of condo units.

“These knuckleheads get into these buildings and they’ll just start opening doors.”

If you leave your unit door open and someone walks in, claiming it was a mistake, Bauer advises skepticism.

“We all know what condo we’re going to. Call 911 and just give a description. You don’t even have to yell at the guy. As soon as he leaves, pick up the phone, lock your door, and say what you saw.”

Bauer has advice for business owners, too – improve lighting, upgrade surveillance cameras, and call 911 if you spot something suspicious.

“If you have cameras that are three, four years old, you need to upgrade them,” says Bauer, calling today’s camera technology “unbelievable.”