After another violent weekend in River North about ten months ago, local Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) pleaded with Chicago police leadership to “get this sh*t under control.”
Since then, the Chicago Police Department has restricted nighttime vehicle traffic in some downtown entertainment districts. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office has established a substation on Clark Street.
And the number of shooting victims in River North has risen 175% from where it stood last year.
Since January 1, 20 people have been shot in the neighborhood, two fatally. There were eight victims as of this date last year and four in 2020.
Shootings in nearby areas such as the Loop and the Near North Side are also up sharply this year compared to last year’s already-elevated levels.
A reporter asked CPD Supt. David Brown during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon what the department is doing to address downtown violence.
His response seemed to be this: shut up and take it.
“Can I just back up a little bit regarding your question?” Brown began. Reporting about crime downtown is “not fair to all communities,” he opined before rambling into a seemingly endless list of generic talking points and keywords about crime being down, gun seizure statistics, collaboration with stakeholders, and so forth.
“All neighborhoods are important, is my response,” Brown said. “I hope you quote me on that.”
It’s worth noting that, just before Brown blasted the reporter’s downtown question, another speaker spent several minutes discussing the city’s anti-violence efforts on the south and west sides.
The reporter, to her credit, tried to ask a different version of her question about downtown.
Brown shut her down again.
“If I live on the West Side, I don’t appreciate your focus on just downtown,” Brown chided. “It’s a divisive conversation.”
Eventually, after the reporter’s third try, he suggested that downtown’s violent crime problem is linked to bars and clubs. And then, robotically, he recited the same generic talking points and keywords he went through before.
Both hands tied
Much of the trouble in River North continues to be centered on the 400 and 500 blocks of North State Street. It’s an area that Reilly, the alderman, has for years called the “lawless zone.”
While those blocks have been a challenge for a long time—Reilly says he’s asked every mayor since 2007 for help fixing it—many people first learned of the problems last summer when two men were viciously beaten in the middle of the street for several minutes as the police department failed to muster up a response.
That incident, too, would have gone unnoticed had video of the attack not leaked out.
What has changed since then?
Well, nothing for the better.
In the past three weeks, seven people have been shot in three separate incidents in the 400 and 500 blocks of State.
One was shot during a robbery on June 23. Two were shot outside a convenience store on the 400 block four days later. And four people were shot Sunday while standing on a corner across the street from that store.
And no charges have been filed in any of those cases.
Maybe that’s why Brown doesn’t want to talk about it.
“This is a resource issue and no fault of the local police commanders,” Reilly said Tuesday. “It’s pretty obvious CPD headquarters has still not supplied the right solution for State Street, and things are getting worse.”
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) also represents parts of downtown.
In an interview with the Sun-Times yesterday, Hopkins blasted Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s handling of the city center crime problem.
“She has no plan to solve this. She’s silent. She doesn’t address it. She doesn’t acknowledge it. The ward that I represent is being terrorized on a nightly basis by violent young men with guns. And she hasn’t said a word about it. And right now, she’s out of town. Doesn’t even seem to care,” he said.
Then, he laid into Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
“She’s an absolute failure. She’s failing the city. She’s failing innocent people who are trying to live their lives. And in the long-term, this is unsustainable for a society,” Hopkins told the paper.