How The Grinch Stole River North: Violent crime pours into once-safe downtown neighborhoods, stats show

Pedestrians cross the Michigan Avenue bridge. Robberies downtown continue to be reported at rates not seen in a decade—or longer. | File

Muggings are being reported at least twice as often as they were just five years ago in the heart of Chicago’s business and tourism districts, according to city data. A police beat that covers the Magnificent Mile and Streeterville is now among the worst for robberies in the entire city.

And the police beat that covers the River North dining and nightlife district has seen robberies spike nearly 400% since 2014. If you want to get robbed in Chicago, River North is the place to go. It is now the #1 police beat for robberies citywide.

Overall, the Near North community area, which includes the Magnificent Mile, River North, and Gold Coast, is experiencing a 146% robbery increase compared to 2014 and a 5% increase compared to last year.

While cops in the Loop have seen some success in reducing robberies during the second half of this year, hold-ups in that downtown neighborhood are still 100% higher than in 2014.

Over the weekend, reports of hold-ups in the Loop and Near North flowed over police radios:

7:15 p.m. — Man is robbed at gunpoint of his laptop in the 100 block of South Clinton, just west of the Loop.

10:07 p.m. — Victim robbed near Clark and Hubbard in River North. Police make an arrest.

12:06 a.m. — Man is robbed by five offenders in Old Town.

1:20 a.m. — Five offenders rob a woman as she gets into a cab near Ontario and Wells.

1:30 a.m. — Man is robbed at gunpoint of $18 near the State/Lake CTA station.

6:40 a.m. — Woman is battered and robbed as she gets out of an Uber near State and Elm.

10:09 a.m. — The Dunkin Donuts at 201 West Lake is robbed by a man who implies that he is armed with a handgun.

The troubles being experienced downtown are reminiscent of the seemingly non-stop robberies that were reported in the Wrigleyville and Boystown neighborhoods between 2011 and 2013. During each of those years, the Lakeview neighborhoods experienced more hold-ups than any other part of the city.

In Wrigleyville and Boystown, private investment in security patrols, increased neighborhood awareness, and an aggressive anti-street crime strategy that bucks the Chicago Police Department leadership’s generally passive approach to fighting crime has paid dividends. Robberies are at an 18-year low in the Lakeview neighborhoods through September.

And what about police Beat 1924, the patrol area that covers the heart of Wrigleyville and Boystown? The beat that ranked #1 for robberies in the entire city for nearly three years straight? Over the past 90 days, it ranks #155 out of 267 beats. For the past year, it’s #38.

The new #1 police beat for robberies in Chicago? That’s Beat 1831 (map), which includes the bulk of the River North dining and nightlife district. It has recorded 115 robberies over the past year. Close behind is Beat 123 (map) on the Loop’s south end. It has recorded 102 robberies over the past year, putting it in fourth place citywide.

Not far behind is a real eye-opener: Police beat 1834 (map), which covers much of the Magnificent Mile and Streeterville, now ranks 13th out of 267 beats for robberies, with 84 cases over the past year.

Shootings and homicides, while relatively low compared to some city neighborhoods, are becoming more frequent downtown, too.  The Loop has recorded ten shooting incidents and homicides this year, up from four last year and one in 2014.  Near North has racked up 17 shootings and homicides so far in 2018.  That compares to 11 during the same time period last year and nine in 2014.

We’re certainly not experts in policing, but we are well aware of what has worked here in Wrigleyville and Boystown. Our non-expert opinion is this: Until police leadership gets serious about catching violent crime offenders, the criminals are going to keep going where they can get away with it: River North, the Loop, and the Mag Mile.
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About CWBChicago 4274 Articles
CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is