LAKEVIEW — A North Side police commander plans to boost midnight patrols in response to violence that brought dozens of local residents to a community policing meeting Thursday night.
Town Hall Police Cmdr. Elias Voulgaris told a packed auditorium of neighborhood residents at Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital Thursday night that he planned to beef up the midnight patrols and follow crime trends.
But that doesn't mean more cops overall — just a schedule change for some daytime officers, he said.
"We're shifting more officers to midnight hours," he said.
The beating of a beloved 75-year-old local cleaning woman as she walked to work at Wills Northwoods Inn, 3030 N. Racine Ave., around 5 a.m. on Jan. 2 shocked residents who had always felt safe in the neighborhood. She ended up with a bump on her head.
"She practically crawled to the door," said Bill Kruse, the owner of Wills, who called police for her.
A woman at Thursday's meeting told of a friend who'd been beaten up and robbed between Belmont and Fletcher avenues. Thursday morning's police chase that ended with a crash and a suspect on the loose fueled the worries.
"I feel more unsafe than I ever did in this city — this fringe activity," said one woman. "That's why we're all here [at this meeting]."
Part of the problem: an affluent neighborhood; easy, sometimes intoxicated targets; and a 24-hour train line, police said. The district's never had the crime numbers to receive extra support around the Belmont Red Line station, said police Sgt. Jason Clark.
In the last month, the 1933 beat, bounded by Belmont on the north, Diversey on the south, Pine Grove to the east and Lincoln on the west, had seven cases of theft of more than $500. The second biggest crime was simple battery, with six cases.
Clark emphasized the responsibility of residents to lock doors, avoid dark alleys, keep cellphones in their pockets and report suspicious persons to 911.
One male victim told Clark that he did nothing when he spotted suspicious people because he was "worried they'd get offended if I crossed the street," Clark said.
This mentality must be avoided to help prevent crimes, Clark said.
"How about you cross the street because it's scary?" he said.
Few personal safety tips seemed to apply to the beating of the elderly woman, who was not walking in a stereotypical dark alley, neighbors said. Several residents said they feel good about the meeting, but will only feel safe again when they see results from police.
"We want them to be proactive," said Bill Armendariz, a Lakeview resident.