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Rise in crime reports put South Loop businesses on alert

Crime in the South Loop has been rising as more people and businesses are moving in. Due to the rise, residents and business owners are taking necessary precautions to combat criminal activity.

According to Chicago Police Department crime reports, a total of 2,207 incidents of assault, theft, robbery and various other crimes have been reported in 2018, compared to 2,331 in 2017. This years crime rate is on track to surpass last years. 

Alex McCann is secretary of the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance and member of its Board of Directors. The alliance serves South Loop residents within the Prairie District, Central Station and Museum Park, the South Michigan Ave Corridor, Motor Row, as well as other areas of the Near South Side.

The purpose of the alliance is to provide an environment for neighbors to meet, exchange ideas, prioritize projects, propose solutions and implement plans for the neighborhood. It also has a neighborhood watch program, including a Facebook page for residents to alert others about incidents that have occurred near them.

“I sense that a lot of people are on edge in the community,” McCann said. “I sense a heightened alertness around the neighborhood, especially in neighborhoods where this kind of stuff keeps happening.” 

McCann said Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) has held meetings where a CPD Commander will come speak while providing updates on crime.

“People feel like since it has been happening more often, it’s getting out of control,” McCann said.

In the past six months, the South Loop has not seen an uptick in commercial burglaries compared to residential burglaries. However, specific areas like the CTA Green Line and Orange Line platforms have been hotbeds for theft, along with the Jewel-Osco located on Canal Street. The CTA Red Line has also been a breeding ground for criminal activity McCann said.

Colleen Aynessazian, 52, Chicago Loop resident, said as burglaries have become more common in the South Loop and Red Line she would not take the Red Line south of the South Loop.

“On the Red Line I do not feel comfortable, it’s the only line that I feel the least safe,” Aynessazian said. “I take extra precautions when riding it, like pepper spray and always watching who is around me.” 

On Aug. 17 there was an incident of criminal damage to property reported at a grocery store on the 1200 block South Wabash Avenue. Less than two weeks after, another incident of criminal damage to property was reported at the CTA station on East Roosevelt Road according to CPD reports.

Fitness Formula Club South Loop is a part of a chain of fitness clubs. Despite not having been directly affected by the recent robberies in the area, they connect with other local businesses to share and discuss potential threats and issues that could impact both employees and customers alike.

“We work closely with our property management, other local businesses, CPD and our alderman to ensure that the focus continues to be maintained to keep our community safe,”  said FFC general manager Sherry Steele.

Businesses like FFC South Loop connect with other local businesses in order to share and discuss potential threats and issues that could impact both employees and customers alike.

The rising threat of burglaries and crime in the South Loop has started to raise concerns among people in the surrounding neighborhoods as well.

Lauren Zydowsky, 23, Wicker Park resident, said she is frequently in the South Loop and is most afraid of someone following and robbing her.

“I’m always being very conscious of where I am,” Zydowsky said. “I used to walk around with my headphones in or on the phone, but now that I know of the recent spike in burglaries, I started to always carry pepper spray with me and limit my cell phone use in public and on the CTA.”

J.C. Bryant has been a doorman at Burnham Park Plaza Condominiums for 10 years. He said he is lucky to have not had any incidents in the past year, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t constantly alert for the safety of the condominium’s residents.

“I’ve had quite a few incidents where I’ve had to call the police,” Bryant said. “Being here this long and dealing with the public, everybody who comes through that door is not going to be a smiling face.” 

Bryant said a lot of the crime is not caused by people who live in the South Loop but instead by people from surrounding Chicago neighborhoods who come into the area.

“When I started 10 years ago, you went outside at 2 a.m. and it was dead, but if you walk outside now it’s light, so guys from the hood start coming down here and mingling in,” Bryant said.

Bryant remembered a fight that broke out a few years ago.

“There was a fight that started down at the 7 Eleven [two blocks away] and they fought all the way down here,” he said. “The guy came in here and tried to hide behind the desk, and then the other guy came in and I was in between trying to separate the two. I had to call 911.” 

Bryant said he’s started to focus on remembering people by face when they enter the building.

“I have gotten very strict when I can tell someone doesn’t belong and I will interrogate them to make sure no one enters the door for the wrong reasons,” Bryant said. “There isn’t much that scares me after living in Chicago this long but I’m always looking out for the residents here. Their safety comes first.”

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