The criminal element that has been plaguing the neighborhood in the last couple years is brought on by a lot of different issues. While criminals are the underlying problem, our police department staffing has decreased over the past few years, including officer allocations to the 14th District and many surrounding communities. I don’t like to see the increase in crime even though we’ve done a lot to try to get more people out, speaking to each other and preventing as much of the crimes as possible. The officers in the 14th are trying to respond as fast as theycan to each call but they are spread thin.

The short term fix should be to temporarily saturate areas with increased crime in areas that have been relatively quiet for the past decade and give us staff to reinstate the Wicker Park Detail and add more patrols along the 606. The dissolution of the detail by the CPD has not helped even though the officers stayed in the 14th District. The commander is getting a handful of officers to keep up with the bare minimum. I’ve demanded in writing and in public that the 14th get more officers and reinstate the Wicker Park detail but the department says it lacks officers to send to the community. It would also help if bars in the immediate area took more responsibility and added staff to deal with late night patrons.

The Mayor is finally hiring around 480 new police officers over the next 2 years. They will be assigned to districts throughout the City. The 1000 number that has been promoted in the media actually includes hundreds of already existing officers who will be promoted to fill severely depleted detective and supervisory officer ranks. These 400 new officers may be just enough to match retirement attrition rates. As I have mentioned in my weekly newsletters, I did vote for this 2017 budget because we will finally see hiring of officers that a handful of aldermen have been pushing for in council for several years. We’ve also spent close to $500 million in ten years on police for inappropriate use of force settlements. And we’ve spent almost $500 million on overtime in the past five years with the annual average at $100 million plus. It’s unsustainable and not working, yet that’s the policy the mayor is banking on for combatting crime. I did not support the last few budgets in part because of the mayor’s reduction in officers in our communities while we spent hundreds of millions on this failed police overtime policy (and continue to do so) that did not benefit taxpayers and did little to stop citywide crime.

We should be bringing back some of the methods of intervention where funding police overtime alone won’t solve the continual drain on resources. The Department of Justice report released last week shows we need a lot of improvements in training, supervision and other aspects of policing but doesn’t address the problems with entities of government, including city hall, city council, and other agencies. The report doesn’t address the fact that there has been a shell game played with citizens or aldermen who want to obtain and review annual police reports, staffing allocations, overtime reports or manpower numbers or much of the other data and info needed to correctly run a billion dollar city department. I don’t know how a city police department of this size can operate without having these basics laid out for the public to see, and understand why policies are in place. The adherence to policies that are implemented without knowing these basics answers to policy positions has led to a disastrous approach and the decline of the rule of law.

I do work as closely as possible with our local commanders to get the staffing we need but there are these policy problems that citizens should know about that are hindering a good response to the crime in our city. So while all of us want to see more patrols each day, we cannot get there until we get more answers about how the police department operates and what long term manpower, among other things, is needed to make our neighborhoods safer again.

There is a tentative community meeting scheduled on February 8th at Wicker Park fieldhouse, the same night as the 1424 CAPS meeting that starts at 7:00 p.m. We are working with neighbors on getting officials to the meeting including the Superintendent of Police, the 14th District Commander, all the Wicker Park Bucktown Aldermen (Hopkins, Moreno and I), and the Park District since they manage the 606 and surrounding parks. I am hoping the department heads all come to discuss their options, too.