'Crime in Wrigleyville' Blog Getting Attention of Residents ... and Police
LAKEVIEW — The police and the alderman's office won't mention it by name, but residents won't stop quoting it.
It's "one blog in particular" — as Town Hall Police District Cmdr. Elias Voulgaris referred to it once. And even though police say crime is down, the impact of the blog named "Crime in Wrigleyville and Boystown" on residents' perception of crime has pushed local leaders to respond.
Crime in Wrigleyville and Boystown started in April. But in the last month, it's caught fire in the neighborhood, with residents sharing it, business leaders quoting it and police feeling the need to address it.
In the last few weeks alone, 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney office has received more than a dozen emails referring to the blog and several Facebook posts linking to it.
Aside from tracking local robberies, the blog decries police statistics as wrong and their statements as lies, saying the long-term trend shows robberies have increased by 50 percent since 2001. It is unapologetic in its criticism of Tunney and accuses him of not taking crime seriously. It warns readers not to trust community policing officers.
The blog is run by five anonymous people who have either been crime victims or are partners of crime victims, according to the site.
"If we sound angry," the blog wrote about CAPS, "it's because we are."
Its writers declined to speak with DNAinfo.
If the blog's goal is to alert local leaders about how they feel, it's worked. A string of robberies reported by the blog and a subsequent scathing post about Tunney led to a response on the alderman's Facebook page.
Maureen Martino, executive director of Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, said in a meeting that some local business owners are scared, mentioning how commenters were encouraging people to warn tourists about crime on business review websites.
"I'll be honest with you," she said, "they're buying Tasers."
The commander, who is in his first year in the position, already has come under fire this year. January saw a spike in robberies, with a nearly fivefold increase from the year before.
After the jump, tactics such as a dedicated entertainment detail, more education efforts and more suspicious persons stops were implemented, and they've worked, police say. Not counting the January jump, robberies have decreased some 20 percent from last year, Voulgaris said.
But Voulgaris said he'll judge his success as a commander when the perception of the decrease in crime lines up with the reality.
"Statistics are one thing," he said, "but if [people] see a group of individuals, they want to know police are there."
The blog and its active community of commenters frequently call for more foot patrols in the neighborhood. Voulgaris and Tunney's office agree that more manpower would be helpful.
Without the option of more police, Voulgaris and Tunney have turned to promoting education and communication with businesses and residents in hopes of preventing crime.
People need to report suspicious people, be willing to testify in court and not walk around with their iPhones out, they said.
Bars could try to distinguish their patrons from loiterers by having customers line up in a single file to enter, Voulgaris said.
"I don't expect any business owner to be the police," Voulgaris said. "I'm just asking for extra assistance in moving people along."
Tunney considers public safety "his No. 1 concern" and is asking citizens to get more involved with CAPS, said Erin Duffy, the alderman's director of community outreach.
These answers have done little to satisfy the blog's writers and readers, who continue insist on more police.
But more may come out of their united rage than Internet comments. At least one commenter named Michael started an email hub in hopes of organizing neighbors.
The "Just One Person" movement references a meeting where Tunney said a neighbor who wanted the Pride Parade moved Downtown was "just one person with an ax to grind." A reader made a logo, and the blog posted hi-res files of it to encourage others to create buttons, T-shirts and signs.
No word yet on whether the group has coalesced, but if it does, that might be just what's needed, authorities said.
"When residents are active in CAPS," Duffy said, "it can be a wonderful, proactive tool."