CHICAGO — After at least nine people were robbed or carjacked near DePaul University last week, Ald Timmy Knudsen (43rd) sent his constituents a reassuring email on Friday afternoon.
“Our police are sending additional patrol vehicles and tactical missions to the area,” the freshman alder wrote. “We will continue to advocate for strategies including consistent police presence in the 43rd Ward and a robust community policing approach.”
So, it may surprise Knudsen to learn that CPD’s Near North (18th) District didn’t have a single beat car assigned to most of his ward’s territory. And the area around DePaul was deep within the no-coverage area.
Near North officers patrol the area between the Chicago River, the lake, and Fullerton Avenue.
On Sunday night, that entire area was patrolled by just 11 beat officers in five squad cars, according to the shift assignment sheet, provided to CWBChicago. One sergeant supervised them. The district’s two squadrols, “paddy wagons” for the politically incorrect, were not staffed. According to the schedule, there were no “rapid response” units and no lakefront patrols.
The district is divided into 12 beats. On Sunday evening, no beat cars were assigned to six of them, including all of the territory between North Avenue and Fullerton.
Knudsen’s line about “additional patrols” is standard CPD nonsense, a well-worn pacifier the department pulls out to make people feel better and stop asking questions. Rarely are more patrols sent.
Back in 2014, when 43rd Ward residents started complaining about police response times and staffing levels, Knudsen’s predecessor, Michele Smith, told residents, “We have had increased patrols…Sometimes you don’t always see it.”
Smith’s creation of apparently invisible police patrols is a long-time favorite at CWB headquarters.
On Saturday, Chicago police issued a community alert about the DePaul-area robberies. The warning said two or three men with handguns were confronting victims on the street and taking their property. It linked four crimes to a single crew:
- Two DePaul students, ages 19 and 20, were robbed at gunpoint in the 1300 block of West Fullerton around 4:15 a.m. last Monday, May 29. The men were walking when two offenders exited a black car to rob them. After the holdup, the victims went to University Hall, a DePaul residence hall, and a security officer called 911, identifying them as students.
- At 12:08 a.m. Thursday, two men implied they had weapons as they robbed four women walking in the 700 block of West Webster, police said. The crew that robbed the women is also responsible for carjacking a 21-year-old and two 19-year-olds in the 700 block of South Ada earlier that night.
- The alert said the men also committed a robbery in the 700 block of West North Avenue early last Wednesday. No additional information was available about that crime.
CPD said the holdups are being committed by two or three Black men between 20 and 25 years old who wear dark clothing.
At least three other incidents were reported last week in the same area:
- A 37-year-old woman was carjacked by two men who implied they had weapons at 11:39 p.m. last Monday, police said. She was getting into her car in the 2300 block of North Halsted, directly in front of DePaul’s School of Music building, when they took her black Volkswagen Jetta.
- A little before 11 p.m. on May 28, a woman called 911 to report that two men tried to rob her and a friend as they sat on a bench in Oz Park. The woman who called for help bolted from the park, leaving her friend behind.
- About 20 minutes later, a 26-year-old woman was knocked to the ground and robbed in the 2200 block of North Sheffield, according to CPD. The offender escaped in a light-colored vehicle.
Doing less with less
“We want the 43rd Ward to be a community where residents feel safe walking their dogs at night, walking home from late dinner, and spending the day at the beach,” Knudsen wrote Friday.
In June 2019, the month after Lori Lightfoot became mayor, 389 cops staffed the Near North District. There were just 291 officers in the district as of last month, according to the Chicago Office of Inspector General. That’s a 25% haircut.
During the same time, staffing in the Town Hall (19th) District, which patrols the north end of Knudsen’s ward, dropped 27%.
Overall, the Chicago Police Department had 11,720 officers last month, down more than 11% in four years. The city has loosened hiring standards, hoping to draw more recruits. And CPD brass and Lightfoot frequently claimed that the police academy was churning out newly-minted cops to replenish the ranks.
But, according to the OIG, CPD’s force has increased by just ten officers since December, a net gain of two officers per month. At that rate, Chicago’s police force will return to 2019 levels in the year 2087.
While the number of cops is declining, the number of major crimes being reported is up. Way up.
Of the seven major crime categories monitored on CPD’s weekly CompStat report, only murders were down year-over-year as of last week. Sexual assault was up 1%. Robbery? Up 16%. Aggravated battery: 4%. Burglary 6%. Theft is up 17%. And auto theft? That’s up an eye-popping 133%, thanks largely to the Kia Boy phenomenon.
Overall, the seven major crimes are up 42% from last year and 58% from 2019.