April 16, 2009 – An increase in “crimes of opportunity” has New Eastside residents concerned about safety in their downtown neighborhood.
At a recent Beat 124 Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meeting, the officers who patrol the beat highlighted the growing issue of theft. The area has experienced an increase of 13.6 percent in theft, primarily from vehicles, over the past month according to Chicago Police statistics.
GPS navigators, iPods and car chargers are commonplace in most vehicles these days, and people have become careless with their valuable items. Left in plain view, the high priced items are easy targets for thieves willing to break a car window.
“These are incidents of thefts from autos and people are taking laptops, iPods, sunglasses, whatever they can see,” said Officer Mary Panick.
Panick urged residents to use caution when parking their cars on public streets or in lots because the areas are easily accessible by anyone. She suggested parking in well-lit areas, moving valuables out of view and staying aware as simple ways for residents to protect themselves.
“Are they going into condo building parking garages where they have cameras too?” asked resident Maddy Fields-Gollogly.
Sgt. David Villalobos answered with a firm “yes.” Incidents have been reported in the public and condo building parking garages around Millennium Park where people are more prone to think they’re belongings are safe. Villalobos reminded everyone that parking garages are public spaces and easily accessible on foot.
“These people walk up and down the aisle and see what’s there,” explained Villalobos. “The cameras are set up to look at license plates, not to look at people walking up the ramp so the parking companies have got work to do.”
Whether someone notices some suspicious activity or is the victim of theft, the officers encouraged everyone to report it. Reporting any incident helps beat officers focus their patrol on areas of concern to better serve the neighborhood residents.
“Too often I think people don’t want to get involved because it’s not their problem, but you know what, one day it might be your problem,” said Panick.
To report suspicious activity, or any other concern, residents are also encouraged to use another method of communication offered by the police department – CLEARpath. The site provides an online outlet for residents to file community concerns with the police department without having to make a phone call.
“Log on, list your concern, I’ll personally review it and assign it to an officer,” said Panick. “We’re out there and we’re doing our best to remain visible.”
This month’s meeting was hosted at Park Millennium, 222 N. Columbus, as part of the beat’s “roving meeting” project. Beat 124 CAPS meetings are normally scheduled to occur every other month, but residents pushed for a monthly opportunity to speak with their beat officers. Several condo associations volunteered to host meetings between the bi-monthly ones to familiarize New Eastside resident with their neighboring buildings.
The next regularly scheduled Beat 124 CAPS meeting will be at 7 p.m. May 14, at the Daley Bicentennial Fieldhouse, 337 E. Randolph. For more information about Beat 124 and CAPS, contact the 1st District CAPS Office at 312-745-4381.