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Crime and Grime: Update from Uptown

Submitted on Mon, 07/02/2007 – 16:07.
Story by Keri Lynch

Burglaries have been on the rise in parts of Uptown recently, causing concern for area residents and police officers. At recent community policing meetings (CAPS), officers said this is not unique to the 46th Ward or the 23rd police District, which runs from the lake to Clark Street between Lawrence and Fullerton avenues.

“Burglaries have gone up all over the city,” said officer Margaret Murphy, Beat 2313 in Uptown. “My house was just burglarized, and we have an alarm system and a big dog.”

With nine reported in a two-week period between June 8 and June 21 in Beat 2312 alone, burglaries were at the top of the list at three Uptown-area CAPS meetings in June. Citywide, burglaries have decreased 4.4 percent and auto thefts dropped 21 percent in the first five months of 2007 compared to 2006, according to crime summary reports released by the Chicago Police Department of so-called “index crimes.”

Other crimes on the “Top Ten” lists for three Uptown beats in May 2007 included battery (15 to 21 incidents) and narcotics (13 to 20 incidents), followed by theft, which includes motor vehicles, with 12 incidents per beat. Burglaries were much lower, with 2 or 3 incidents per beat.

Murphy and other 23rd District beat officers have been checking doors, garages and cars to try to reduce the number of break-ins and thefts in the North Side neighborhood. They say a warm-weather spike is normal, and residents can help prevent these crimes.

“I’ve been checking cars and leaving notes (for owners),” Murphy said. “If people leave things inside, someone may break in. You have to protect yourself and close your back door.”

The most recent data for the 46th Ward from lists 20 crimes May 26 to May 29. Six of these were burglaries, defined as “entering a building without authority with intent to commit theft.” All of these burglaries occurred in apartments or residences in three police beats – 2311, 2312 and 2313 – in Uptown.

“Compared to last year, burglary stats are about the same,” said officer Nano Guardi, who works beat 2311, near Truman College in Uptown.

The rest of the crimes reported during the same four-day period in May fall under the broader category of theft, or unlawfully taking property, including four motor vehicle thefts, one robbery on park property and one report of identity theft.

Burglaries were the top concern east of Broadway, between Montrose and Lawrence, in Beats 2312 and 2313. But drugs, drinking and loitering were the biggest issues at the June meeting for Beat 2311 at Truman College, just west of Broadway and Wilson avenues.

“It seems like it got better then worse again this year,” said resident Jami Krueger, who says she regularly witnesses drug deals and public drinking at all times of the day and night from her condo at Wilson and Magnolia avenues, just west of Truman College.

It was better when they had a police camera, Krueger said, but the blue light camera is no longer installed at that corner. That camera – the only one of its type in the district – is now at the corner of Wilson and Sheridan, said Irma Perres, CAPS community organizer for the police department.

Although community response was good at the former location, Perres said, the light was never intended to be permanent, and officers move it where they think it is most needed.

Public drinking also increases during warm months, and officers said they are cracking down on this behavior. Officers have discretion as to how to handle individuals drinking alcoholic beverages in public.

“I’m sick of drinkers sitting at bus stops; it is my pet peeve,” officer Murphy said. “We now have a zero tolerance for that. Just call us.”

Officers can dump out alcoholic beverages and go as far as arresting individuals. Another option is to issue an ANOV ticket, or Administrative Notice of Violation, which officer Mike Perdue explained as he walked Beat 2313 with residents at a June CAPS meeting.

“If you run a name and the person has five of these ANOV tickets, it’s an automatic arrest,” Perdue said. “Don’t drink in public; there are too many kids outside.”

It is an ongoing effort to deter public drinking, 23rd District CAPS coordinators said, and those arrested are generally released the next day and most cases are not taken to court.

Also citing the Chicago Police Department’s zero tolerance, officer Guardi said there were 16 arrests last month in Beat 2311 near Truman College for drinking in the public way. Overall, he said, the crime statistics are about the same as last year, and there were no major “spikes,” or areas of concern.

One area that is a consistent concern for residents and police officers is near the Wilson Red Line stop, near the intersection of Broadway and Wilson avenues. This is considered the heart of Uptown, and it’s also where three police beats converge.

“We work together with Beats 2311 and 2312 to tackle problem spots,” said officer Perdue of Beat 2313.

Although the area has a reputation for being dangerous and dirty, residents and police officers said that over the last few years, it has gotten safer – and cleaner.

Part of the credit goes to Cleanslate, a program that has helped clean up Uptown since June 2006 while also providing job training to former offenders, who working as interns pick up trash and recyclables from sidewalks, streets and vacant lots. To date, 12 of the 32 Uptown interns have found permanent jobs, according to the organization’s most recent report.

For other non-crime issues, officers advised residents to call 311 to report traffic or street light outings or to request graffiti removal or rodent control. Officers work with the city’s Streets and Sanitation employees on these types of problems.

Officers at each beat meeting implored residents to call 911 for any crimes or concerns – and to call right away. Details and descriptions of individuals are extremely helpful, officers said, and residents can remain anonymous. Make notes and give detailed descriptions, Guardi said, and the key is not to be afraid but be proactive and prepared.

“This is what CAPS is all about,” Guardi said. “All of us working together.”

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