CHICAGO — Regular readers of CWB may find this hard to believe. And, no, we haven’t been hacked.
A Chicago police officer engaged a carload of armed men in a high-speed, cross-city chase Sunday night after the group, suspected of at least nine holdups, committed three robberies in Lincoln Park and on the Near North Side.
Sunday night’s first robbery was reported around 11 p.m. outside the Armitage Brown Line station in the 900 block of West Armitage. A 42-year-old woman told Chicago cops she was walking on the sidewalk when four men got out of a white SUV and took her purse at gunpoint, according to a CPD media statement.
A Near North (18th) District tactical sergeant spotted the white vehicle minutes later on Halsted Street. And the chase was on.
“I’m not going to terminate [the chase] myself until we crash,” he radioed as he pursued the car toward the United Center. “It’d be great if I could get some help. I’m all by myself.”
And there’s the rub. Despite the cop’s efforts, putting his career at risk should anything bad happen during the chase, he had no backup to help him. No police helicopters were up. The state police weren’t in the area.
Worst of all, perhaps, as the sergeant chased the car through a West Side police district, one of that district’s sergeants ordered his units not to pursue the robbers.
“I haven’t seen one squad car,” the sergeant radioed around 11:22 p.m., about a minute before the crew bailed out near 15th and Drake. They ran from the scene, and the lone sergeant, soon joined by local district officers since the chase had ended, searched for them. No luck. The group got away.
Chicago police are investigating three additional armed robberies that occurred around the same time as the one near the Armitage CTA station.
At about 11:15 p.m., a 31-year-old man was robbed while walking to work in the 1700 block of West Hubbard, police said. Three men got out of a white SUV and took his phone and wallet at gunpoint.
In Lincoln Park, a 56-year-old man and a 60-year-old woman were robbed by four men who got out of a white SUV in the 600 block of West Armitage around 11:20 p.m., according to CPD
And four men stepped out of a white SUV to rob a woman at gunpoint in the 1400 block of North Halsted around 11:40 p.m., police said.
The robbers were described as Black men wearing masks and carrying multiple handguns.
A rare pursuit
The Chicago Police Department has become particularly risk-averse since enacting a new vehicle pursuit policy in August 2020. That order gives officers 11 pages of instructions to consider when deciding if a vehicle should be pursued.
The order specifically prohibits Chicago officers from pursuing anyone for a traffic offense other than DUI. And it states explicitly that CPD will not discipline any member for ending a motor vehicle pursuit. If they continue a pursuit, though, they’ll be held responsible for anything that goes wrong.
Those policies have benefits and consequences.
Chicago has paid out tens of millions of dollars for lives lost and injuries caused by pursuits that ended with crashes. CPD supervisors have become so skittish about the possibility of something going wrong, they’ve ordered cops to stop pursuing a car suspected of carrying wanted murderers.
In observance of the policy, cops downtown decided not to pursue a stolen BMW wanted for a series of armed robberies last May. Within an hour of that decision, men who emerged from the BMW shot and robbed Dakotah Earley in Lincoln Park.
So, the benefit is fewer people will be injured by speeding and crashing cars. As a result, the city will face fewer lawsuits.
The consequence is that robbery crews can rob scores of people across the city during nightly crime sprees, occasionally shooting victims, because the police aren’t apprehending them.
But state police troopers are given more leeway and usually take the lead when cops spot a hijacked car in traffic or someone wanted for another serious crime. In fact, just last week, a man driving a stolen car crashed while being chased by state troopers in Lincoln Park. A pedestrian was injured.
The city’s two helicopters, which it shares with the sheriff’s office, are frequently down for maintenance or due to weather, giving many offenders a chance to drive away and avoid arrest.
That could be changing soon. Late last year, the Cook County Board of Commissioners approved money to buy a helicopter for the sheriff’s office. And the Chicago City Council approved funding for two new CPD helicopters.
If everything goes as planned, the new sheriff’s office helicopter should be operational by late summer or early fall.
Even after the new equipment is in place, the number of air units patrolling the city and county will pale in comparison to the Los Angeles area, which has 35 police helicopters, and the New York City Police Department, which is increasing its fleet from seven to nine, according to the Cook County sheriff’s office.