Let’s say you live in a neighborhood that has seen a significant surge in armed robberies during which offenders were targeting up to eight people at a time, frequently pistol-whipped their victims, and even fired shots during some crimes.
Now, let’s say you happened to see or hear someone being robbed near you. What are some reasonable things you could do? Call 911? Sounds good. Try to get a photo of the robbers or their car from a safe distance? OK. That’s worth a try.
How about this? How about running toward the robbery while blowing a whistle to attract attention? That’s what Lincoln Park Alderman Michele Smith hopes her constituents will do.
Good luck to anyone and everyone who tries it.
Smith announced that she was bringing back the “WhistleStop program,” which she said helped fight crime in Lincoln Park during the 1970s.
Of course, the 50-year-old program was used decades before people could simply call 911 using the phone in their pocket.
“The WhistleStop program follows these rules,” Smith wrote in her December 22 email. “If you find yourself in a suspicious situation or witness a crime, blow your whistle. If you hear a whistle, call the police, then move toward the source while blowing your own whistle.”
Just pray the crime does not involve a group of armed men who won’t hesitate to whack you square in the face with their handguns — or worse.
“It allows people to come to the victim’s aid, forces the offender to flee, and helps the police pinpoint the location of the crime,” Smith claimed.
It’s not clear why Smith believes that a group of armed men who aren’t afraid to rob five or eight or three people at a time would suddenly flee upon seeing someone arrive while blowing a whistle. A more likely outcome might be that the robbery of five or eight or three would become a robbery of six or nine or four, at least in our estimation.
“Of course, use common sense. Do not blow your whistle if you think to do so would put yourself in danger, particularly from an armed criminal,” Smith warned.
But nearly all of the robberies reported in the North Side hold-up surge involved armed men who repeatedly showed a willingness to be violent for no reason. So, again, it’s not clear why Smith would recommend that anyone go running toward a robbery in the current environment.
But, if you’re interested in having a whistle so you can go running toward armed robbery crews, Smith has a “limited supply” available in her office. As RuPaul says, “Good luck. And don’t f*ck it up.”
BTW — six days after Smith announced her WhistleStop campaign, armed robbery crews shot two men in separate hold-ups in Boystown.
Smith is no stranger to wackadoodle crime-fighting ideas.
- As election day neared in 2019, Smith claimed that police manpower in the two districts that serve her ward had increased by 136 officers over the past year. In fact, staffing in the districts had increased by only 78.
- In another crime-fighting first this autumn, Smith invited her constituents to purchase their very own CPD “blue light” surveillance camera — for $25,000 each.
- After a shooting near the lakefront in the summer of 2019, police banned overnight parking along Cannon Drive near the Lincoln Park Zoo. Three weeks later, Smith boasted of “great results” and said the parking ban resulted in a drop in “serious crime.” But the city’s own data showed no such improvement.
- Faced with community concerns about police staffing levels in 2014, Smith told constituents that her ward was enjoying increased police patrols, “you don’t always see it.” We dubbed them the “invisible police.”
Coincidentally, Smith recently claimed that CPD had added 51 officers to patrol Lincoln Park to combat robberies. But when we asked her office to put us in touch with someone at the police department who could confirm her claim, no one replied. Twice.
Alderman Tom Tunney, who represents much of Lakeview, repeated Smith’s claim. We asked Tunney’s office for the name of anyone at CPD who could confirm that claim. They directed us to CPD’s News Affairs office.
We were way ahead of them. We’d already asked News Affairs. And CPD refused to confirm the aldermen’s claims because the department doesn’t talk about deployment levels.
So, if CPD won’t talk about how many cops are addressing a problem, why would the aldermen?
Well, our understanding is that Smith’s claim of 51 additional officers is not true.
A source with direct knowledge of the situation told CWBChicago that CPD had no idea what she was talking about when she repeatedly threw that number around.