Crime out of control?

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Neighbors fed up with ‘chaos’

By Tim Hadac

Like many Chicagoans, Southwest Siders may be getting numb to weekly reports (at least during warm weather) of large groups of young people descending on the Loop and Near North Side and destroying property, as well as harassing and even beating tourists and others who happen to be in their way—including police.

What most are not accustomed to are elected leaders making statements that some say excuse mob action on the part of young people.

“In no way do I condone the destructive activity we saw in the Loop and lakefront this weekend,” Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson said in a statement emailed to the press at 3:23 p.m. Sunday, after hours of pressure placed on him via social media, to say something about lawlessness in and near the Loop. “It is unacceptable and has no place in our city. However, it is not constructive to demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities.

“Our city must work together to create spaces for youth to gather safely and responsibly, under adult guidance and supervision, to ensure that every part of our city remains welcome for both residents and visitors. This is one aspect of my comprehensive approach to improve public safety and make Chicago livable for everyone.”

What stuck in the craw of many Southwest Siders was the “…youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities” line. Many appeared to interpret that as Johnson excusing and winking at those who rioted.

“That kind of statement will only encourage more of the same,” said McKinley Park resident Paulina Ontiveros. “Those young people aren’t stupid. When the man at the top says something like that, they know what it means. It’s an invitation to keep it up and maybe even do more. Maybe next time, they’ll set a police car on fire or an ambulance or even a CTA bus. It’s chaos, and I’m fed up with it.”

West Elsdon resident Carlos Guzman bitterly joked about Johnson’s statement.

“Imagine some punk gets arrested for destroying property or robbery or looting,” he said. “Maybe his defense attorney can quote [Johnson] in court: ‘Your honor, yes, my client did destroy property and commit robbery. But please don’t demonize him. You see, he has been starved of opportunities in his own community.’”

(Story continues below photo.)

GSWNH CrimeOutOfControl 042123

Dozens of young car enthusiasts staged an illegal take-over of 63rd and Oak Park last weekend, frightening Clearing residents and angering local elected officials and civic leaders. –Screenshot from a cellphone video

The City Council’s most vocal crime fighter also weighed in.

“I’m worried, and I think rightfully so,” 15th Ward Ald. Raymond Lopez told the Greater Southwest News-Herald earlier this week. “In one weekend, we’ve already gotten a taste, a preview, a prelude of what summer’s going to be like; and more importantly, what the responses from leaders—from governor, mayor on down are going to be like.

“Everyone’s dancing around the issues, trying to deflect and pivot, blame race, blame disinvestment, blame everything except what it is: parents not paying attention to what their children are doing, and having a system that refuses—absolutely refuses—to hold people accountable, whether it’s the child, the parent or otherwise, for what they do.”

The alderman said the mayhem downtown, as well as the street take-overs by car-club drivers who engage in drag racing, drifting and other stunts, “are organized events, not just random gatherings of youths gelling into chaos.” As such, he said police have the technological means to successfully monitor those who plan such organized events and therefore meet and thwart troublemakers at their rendezvous point. He suggested working with federal law enforcement officials to accomplish that.

“We have all the [technological] tools in our toolbox,” he claimed. “We just need to have leaders with the will to use them.”

Lopez also criticized “a system that tries to ostracize those that stand up and speak the truth. This is evidence of our values collapsing right in front of us: our [un]willingness to call out what is going on around us, truthfully.”

To those who would call out criminal acts, the alderman advised, “When they try to play the race card, don’t back down. Don’t get weak kneed. Stand up for the truth. Stand up for what’s right. Criminal acts are criminal acts, regardless of the skin color of those who commit them, and failing families are failing families, regardless of skin color.”

Two other Southwest Side aldermen weighed in.

“Like many, I was awakened to the sounds of drag racers over the weekend and spent the night on the phone with city and police officials,” 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares told the Greater Southwest News-Herald. “I have been advocating for more officers and technology for our district since taking office, and will continue to do so.

“We also need to coordinate with law enforcement partners on the county, state and federal levels to hold offenders accountable, as well as parents and illegal event organizers,” she continued. “The police department has been micromanaged by the mayor for the past four years and it has gotten us where we are. A proactive plan that relies on real solutions and not feel-good rhetoric must be the top qualification for the police department’s next superintendent.”

Thirteenth Ward Ald. Marty Quinn said what he “witnessed last weekend is absolutely unacceptable, makes me sick to my stomach. It’s not the Chicago that I’m pushing for. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Quinn told the Greater Southwest News-Herald that last year, City officials—most notably the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Department of Transportation—came up with an action plan to thwart mass lawlessness. Without divulging specifics of the plan, he said he expects that plan to be deployed in 2023.

“But I’m not going to dump on the police,” he continued. “I’m going to work with the police, as always, as always. Those guys are our friends. We need them.”

Quinn added that he sees “a fight on the horizon, just like last year, and I’m not going to back down from that fight.”

Neighborhood leaders also fed up

In the wake of the street fire and loud take-over of 63rd and Oak Park—as well as the riotous behavior in and around the Loop, several neighborhood leaders and other residents weighed in.

“I want to know what our [Eighth District Police] commander and [13th Ward] alderman are doing to address the issue,” Clearing Night Force President Judy Ollry said. “Our new mayor needs to restore police authority. Many people in our area are not happy with the mayoral election results; and if these current criminal trends occur again without consequences, more people will be inclined to move out of Chicago.”

“I have lived in Clearing for the last 24 years,” said Nancy Calderon. “I never have heard such crazy noise and commotion as I did this last Saturday, starting at about 11 p.m. and lasting ‘til about 1:30 a.m.

“I believe these young people are taking advantage of the fact that on the west end of the Eighth Police District we have less crime and less police protection. Social media was apparently used to get all these young people in the location of 63rd and Oak Park and Archer/Oak Park. It truly sounded like the Indy 500 at one point.”

Unlike many who simply groused on Facebook, Calderon offered a few ideas.

“Make sure the next CPD superintendent is from within the department,” she began. “No one knows what happens on the Chicago streets better than a police officer who has worked the streets.

“Give the police the ability to follow social media sites so they have a heads up on what is going to happen.

“I worked with the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department for 22 years as a support staff employee until I retired in 2017, and I saw teens just get a hand slap for some very serious crimes. Parents need to be held responsible for how out of control their kids have become.

“I could go on for awhile with this, but I’m praying somehow the elected officials of this city can come up with some answers quickly,” she concluded.

Clearing resident Jacqueline Doherty said, “I live near 63rd and Mulligan in an apartment with a balcony. I was sitting out there when all the activity started happening on 63rd and Oak Park.” She said her daughter has a scanner app on her phone and heard CPD dispatching units from another police district to Clearing.

“Squad cars were flying by,” Doherty added. “Hearing the screeching of the cars put me on edge. I fear for the residents in the neighborhood, not knowing if these kids/people are doing anything else besides drag racing.”

“As for downtown, that’s just crazy,” she concluded. “I would not allow anyone under the age of 21 to ride the CTA (Red Line), from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Close all beaches south, have Oak Street and going north [open]. Those kids [who caused trouble at the 31st Street beach] weren’t even there to go swimming anyway.”

Jason Huff serves as president of both the Garfield Ridge Civic League and the Scottsdale Neighborhood Watch.

“As a community leader and elected [member of the Eighth District Police Council], I can say that many believe there is no direction at the top of CPD. In addition, the current mayor has checked out while the new mayor has taken the side of mayhem by saying not to demonize those youth who caused this chaos.

“The mayor-elect’s statement will just embolden these car enthusiasts, young adults and criminals to continue their actions because there currently is no law and order,” Huff continued. “These are not just youth that are causing damage and destruction. There are young adults 18 and older that are taking part in this chaos.

“I fear with no permanent police superintendent until this search is over and process is complete, frustration, anxiety and safety are going to cause law-abiding citizens to take action into their own hands,” he concluded. “We have political leaders at the local and state level who are worried about saving their own political backsides instead of working to solve the problems. This will cause more residents to leave the city, county and state.”

Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch President Al Cacciottolo said he witnessed the illegal street takeovers at 63rd and Oak Park and Archer and Oak Park.

“I’m totally pissed off at these suburban punks that come to our community and want to cause destruction,” he said. “Yes, suburban kids. They are from Orland Park, Homer Glen, Oak Lawn, Downers Grove. They are organized and know the police are understaffed. We as a community to need band together to show them that this is our community and you’re not going to ruin it.

“Our aldermen have contacted the [Eighth District Police] commander, but they can only do so much,” Cacciottolo concluded. “The police are outmanned and need help. We have to come up with safe ideas to thwart off these vandals. I have spoken with numerous neighbors, and we have some ideas [to help] our local police. We are not looking for a fight, but this is going to be a long summer. As a business owner and a resident of this great community, i will not take this sitting down.”

1 Comment

  1. Earl on April 18, 2023 at 5:48 pm

    Keep voting for those progressive candidates.

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