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Tom Tunney proposes special police unit for Boystown’s Halsted Street

Updated: October 20, 2011 12:27AM

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) on Wednesday proposed the city create a special police unit in the North Halsted Street entertainment district to address concerns about recent violence there.

Tunney’s proposal follows a videotaped attack on a man Sunday night in the 3300 block of North Halsted in the Lake View neighborhood’s Boystown section — the center of the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The video shows about 10 young men kicking and punching a 25-year-old man who was stabbed in the melee. No one is in custody in the attack. Police don’t believe the incident was a hate crime.

The attack followed an unrelated June 18 stabbing at a nearby convenience store in the 3400 block of North Halsted.

Tunney argued the North Halsted entertainment district needs a dedicated police unit similar to the one assigned to patrol Rush Street years ago.

He didn’t give a specific number of officers he thinks are needed or say where they should come from at a time when a city hiring slowdown has led to a police manpower shortage.

“We’re asking the police department to create an entertainment district force similar to what they did in Rush Street back in the day. Today’s youth are in Boystown. They’re in Wrigleyville. Those districts are very compact. They make up a sizeable portion of my ward. And I would like to make sure that we get the police resources on the late-night shift,” Tunney said.

He said such a unit would assist beat officers.

“It is unrealistic to expect beat officers to cover areas where there are high concentrations of entertainment and hospitality venues,” he said.

Still, Tunney said he was not wedded to the idea of a special police unit — just “whatever the police can do to increase the resources on the third shift … maybe a different deployment strategy.”

Tunney said he’s asked the Belmont and Town Hall Police Districts to tell him how many officers are on the street from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day.

“If the number of officers appears to be insufficient, I will ask command staff of the Chicago Police Department to do anything possible to get more officers on the street during the later hours,” he said.

“We have been dealing with late night crime on our streets for years. As a victim of a robbery myself, I understand everyone’s concern, and I share it,” Tunney said.

Lt. Maureen Biggane, a police spokeswoman, said “additional area resources will be deployed as needed to address community concerns and to ensure adequate coverage at peak times.”

Tunney said he planned to attend a community-policing meeting Wednesday night to discuss crime in two Town Hall District police beats — 2331 and 2324 — where most of Boystown is located.

According to Chicago Police Department records, there were nearly 1,100 crimes in those beats from June 2010 through June 2011.

A Sun-Times analysis showed the No. 1 crime was simple battery with more than 110 of them reported. Other prevalent crimes included theft, shoplifting, property damage, burglary and strong-arm robbery. There were nine knife-related crimes. No murders were reported.

For the months of May and June, crime rose about 17 percent in those two beats from 2010 to 2011.

By comparison, one police beat in the high-crime Roseland neighborhood on the Far South Side had more than 2,500 crimes from June 2010 to June 2011 — including three murders and 23 knife-related crimes.

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