LAKEVIEW — Lakeview's top cop saw rampant public drinking at last month's Pride Parade — and if the parade happens again next year, he wants to limit entrances so police can check bags for liquor, he said.
"It's virtually impossible for us to stop it once it's going on," Town Hall Police District Cmdr. Elias Voulgaris told Hawthorne Neighbors. "It's not impossible to stop it if we can prevent it from going in."
Since Voulgaris assumed his command last year, he's touted a "zero-tolerance" policy on quality-of-life issues such as drinking and urinating on the public way. With big events like Pride, which swelled to more than a million people this year, police cannot dole out enough tickets for all the drinkers.
At last month's event, police arrested "a couple" of people for drinking and wrote 60 citations, Voulgaris said. He blamed liquor stores, not bars, for providing fuel for public drinking at both Pride and the Stanley Cup celebration.
"I truly believe if we're going to have a parade next year, we need to have exits and entrances," he said, suggesting Addison as a potential checkpoint. "We need to check people for liquor or coolers."
During the parade, "90 percent of the LGBT community was very well-behaved and really respectful," he said. Most of the problems occurred afterward, when other people came into the neighborhood, he said. Voulgaris said he called for 45 backup officers.
Berlin, a nightclub at 954 W. Belmont Ave. open until 4 or 5 a.m., shut down early at the request of the police that night. While Belmont remained largely clear, people walking on Halsted toward the Belmont "L" station were stopping in the streets, Voulgaris said.
On Pride Sunday, 58 crimes occurred in the 44th Ward, according to the Chicago Police Department crime data portal. Thefts accounted for most of the crime, 41 percent, and simple battery — or fights that do not result in major bodily harm — made up the next-largest crime category, with 24 percent.
Residents at a CAPS meeting earlier this month called for the end of the Pride Parade in Lakeview due to crime, but Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) told them their opinion was in the "very minor, minor minority" of ward residents.
Neighbors mentioned crowds hanging out in front of businesses — a problem that's been ongoing for years, some say — and Voulgaris agreed that finding a way to control the crowds without violating their right to be on the public way is a priority.
The Town Hall Police District, which encompasses Lakeview, Lincoln Park and parts of Uptown, is a major entertainment area, and more crowds calls for more police visibility, he said.
"Statistics are one thing," Voulgaris said, "but if [residents] see a group of individuals, they want to know police are there."