(Above, left to right) 42nd Ward Alderman Michele Smith, 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack, and 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins at a meeting with Lincoln Park residents on February 7.
19-Feb-18 Trisected Lincoln Park has heard the state of their wards and crime is the number one concern of residents and the aldermen who represent them.
A meeting on February 7 with the three aldermen whose wards include different parts of the tony North Side community quickly turned serious, as about 100 neighbors were updated on what many believe is a growing crime problem.
2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins, 42nd Ward Alderman Michele Smith, and 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack all spoke about public safety and a dramatic increase in quality-of-life crimes targeting Lincoln Park and much of the North Side.
Waguespack recounted being cornered at a community gathering recently and getting an earful about crime from about 40 people. Hopkins says the crime wave became personal for him when a man was arrested for a gun crime in front of his house.
It was unsettling and very stressful, said Hopkins.
(Left) Bissell Street District of Lincoln Park. Photo by Wikipedia user Thshriver. (Click on image to view larger version.)
For many locals, law enforcement and justice are quickly becoming core issues in Chicago. It seems to them that police continue to arrest the same criminals over and over for multiple offenses only to see Cook County fail to prosecute the perpetrators and set them free on low or no bail, sometimes on the same day they are arrested.
Police reports and arrest records show a class of criminals exist in Chicago, many of whom have been arrested on multiple charges, only to see those charges dropped and bail waved by county prosecutors. It is not unusual to see rap sheets on people showing multiple arrests sometimes as many as 20 who are quickly set free after they again get arrested.
More police are not the only answer, said Smith. Crime needs justice. Criminals need to receive consequences for their criminal actions.
Gun use not always a factor in prosecution
Perhaps most shocking of all is that using a gun in the commission of a crime is not always enough to trigger the Cook County States Attorney to act. Many of those using guns to commit their crimes are set free when felony gun charges are negotiated down to misdemeanors by prosecutors, thrown out, or just ignored.
One officer who attended the meeting said it doesnt matter how many police are on staff if arrests are not followed by prosecutions. As for the recent jump in vehicle hijackings, police say those are due mainly to bands of criminals who have a full day of robberies planned and start by taking a car for transportation.
The cars are generally used in the commission of crimes and then abandoned at the end, said the officer, who did not want to be identified by name.
The citys no pursuit rules have limited the risk of being caught while stealing a car. Those rules are designed to stop traffic accidents that sometimes resulted from high-speed police chases, but carjackers know that if they just speed up and race through traffic, Chicago police in pursuit are required to end the chase and let them go.
Alderman Smith (right) went as far as to hail the arrival of additional federal law enforcement in Chicago.
Without public safety, nobody will want to live here, she said.
The two-hour breakfast meeting at Earls Kitchen + Bar was sponsored by Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce.