Downtown alderman: We need more bike cops to combat crime
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com October 15, 2012 5:36PM
The Chicago Police Department bicycle squad will watch over and protect the Chicago Critical Mass monthly bike ride on a chilly winter Friday that starts at Daley Plaza. | Dom Najolia~Sun-Times
Updated: November 17, 2012 6:21AM
Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) acknowledged Monday that there is a perception of rising crime on Chicago’s Near North Side, that “perception is reality” and that more bike patrols are needed to help reverse that negative image.
“We can throw around all sorts of police statistics to show that various crime rates are dropping. But if people don’t feel safe walking down the street or spending time in a park in the neighborhood, then we have a problem,” Reilly said during a luncheon address to the City Club of Chicago.
“The last two years, especially the beginning of the summer season, we’ve had real struggles managing large groups of teenagers that come downtown looking for trouble — either through flash mob-like shoplifting excursions to the stealing of iPhones on buses and trains. We’ve had some people assaulted downtown when the lakefront trail closes down and the cops are shifting kids off the beaches. A lot of ‘em like to spend time walking through neighborhoods looking for trouble.”
The alderman credited the 1st and 18th police districts for responding to the problem with “incredible visibility” of police officers — not only on Michigan Avenue, but on those “side streets that abut” the lakefront trail. There’s also “a more aggressive team” of police officers working CTA Red Line stations to cut off the “escape route” favored by thugs committing downtown crime, he said.
Reilly, who serves as vice-chairman of the City Council’s Budget Committee, said he would work to identify additional savings in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed 2013 budget to hire more police officers beyond the 500 officers the mayor plans to hire to keep pace with inflation.
But if that’s not possible, Reilly said he would, at the very least, push for more bike patrols in the downtown area.
“Getting cops out of squads and onto bikes is fantastic. We’ll never return to the days of the true walking beat cop. But a bike patrol officer is the next best thing,” the alderman said.
“They can hear things that you can’t hear when your window’s rolled up in a squad [car] rolling through a neighborhood. They can get through alleys much more efficiently. And they can get into the nooks and crannies where a lot of the crime downtown is being committed. So that’s been my request of the Police Department and something I plan to hammer home [during budget hearings]. This is a smart investment that has a real good return on investment.”
Reilly said Police Supt. Garry McCarthy has “made some critical adjustments” to nip the downtown crime problem in the bud. But, he said, “The idea here, though, is to make sure this is not a seasonal issue every year. Let’s learn from past mistakes and memorialize these as the way to handle safety downtown during the summer months.”