|Charges were dropped against Gerald Harris when the Center on Halsted failed to appear in court. | File; CPD|
A convicted burglar who was accused of stealing a power drill set from the Center on Halsted (COH), 3656 North Halsted, walked free on Thursday after the LGBT social agency failed to appear in court.
Gerald Harris, 31, was charged with stealing a Milwaukee drill set from the COH on February 9. He was arrested several days later after a COH security guard identified him for police. Harris, who police say is a Gangster Disciple street gang member, was charged with one count of theft.
But when the Center failed to send a representative to Harris’ hearing on Thursday, Calabrese had no choice but to drop the theft charge.
In 2016, Harris pleaded guilty to stealing a $950 bicycle from a garage in the 1100 block of West Newport. He was sentenced to two years in prison, but after subtracting time served, he only spent 24 days in the big house.
In 2016, CWBChicago reported that COH representatives had falsely told community groups and neighbors that the agency follows-through on prosecutions of individuals who commit crimes on the agency’s property or against its staff. Court records showed that the COH failed to show up for 25 out of 26 criminal cases since 2013. The only time anyone showed up in court was when a man was accused of threatening the COH’s chief executive officer.
Rather than appear in court, the Center resorted to one of its core policies: the use of “restorative justice”—-essentially banning someone from COH property until they say they will behave.
Or, as The Windy City Times describes it, “Restorative justice is an approach to handling supposed wrongdoing that aims to provide alternatives to punishment. It looks at the experiences of people involved and attempts to heal those afflicted rather than discipline an alleged wrongdoer.”
After a meeting with local police executives and aldermen, the Center drew up a “security plan” and began attending court. Between October 2016 and last June, COH representatives appeared for five out of six cases.
But, since last August old habits have returned. Most notably, the Center failed to appear for the case of Donovan Mylander who was accused of battery and trespassing at the agency during last June’s Pride Fest. Mylander is now charged with attempted robbery in River North.