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Editorial: As short-term fix, plan for extra cops has merit

Ald. Brendan Reilly

Ald. Brendan Reilly

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Updated: May 4, 2013 6:27AM

Last weekend, on the first nice days of spring, what police call “multiple offender incidents” returned to bedevil pedestrians on North Michigan Avenue.

Police arrested three adults and 25 juveniles in a crackdown on so-called wildings, which involved some 400 young people.

We wouldn’t want to overreact, but it’s an undeniable fact that a safe and thriving downtown area is vital to our city’s economic well-being. Crime of any kind there — even the perception of crime — cannot be tolerated.

As a remedy, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) has proposed that different parts of town — say, a half square mile on the Near North Side — be allowed to raise money to put more real Chicago cops on their streets and sidewalks. The extra cops, though paid from private funds, would do the same work as all other officers and answer solely to their police superiors, not to the businesses or residents who raise the money.

“The idea is that we can take off-duty cops who would otherwise be out moonlighting on a construction site or at home on the couch, and put them back on the street in uniform with their badges and guns to provide a supplemental layer of support above and beyond the beat officers,” Reilly said.

If Chicago goes this route, it should do so only temporarily. We’re uncomfortable with the idea that some parts of town, simply because they have more money, might get more protection from the Chicago Police, which effectively is what will happen. Better to hire more cops for the whole city.

As a practical matter, though, Chicago is in no position to hire more full-time officers anytime soon — and summer is coming on.

It is essential that City Hall keep the Loop and Michigan Avenue — and those summer playgrounds like Grant Park, the museum campus and Millennium Park — safe and welcoming.

Not just for the conventioneers and tourists. But for all of us, too.

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