LAKEVIEW — A warning to those planning to party in Wrigleyville this weekend: Police will be enforcing "zero tolerance" for drinking and urinating in public, the area police commander said.
Town Hall District Cmdr. Elias Voulgaris is tackling his first St. Patrick's Day by keeping Clark Street open, reassigning office staff to the streets, using horse patrols and sending two cars to patrol the neighborhoods for people drinking or urinating outside.
Voulgaris has been touting quality-of-life issues as one of his top goals since starting in August. People caught causing a ruckus on the streets will be ticketed — and arrested where applicable.
It's a policy that will continue on weekends and during bar crawl events, but Saturday's expected crowds will be a first test.
"I want to start sending the message now, before it gets warmer," he said at a Neighborhood Safety and Sanitation meeting Monday night at Ann Sather restaurant, 909 W. Belmont Ave.
Last year's unseasonably warm St. Patrick's Day hit 80 degrees and attracted a larger crowd than police expected, CAPS officer Sgt. Jason Clark said. Police shut down Clark Street to keep pedestrians safe, he said.
"Any time you have large crowds, intoxicated, you're going to have quality-of-life issues," Clark said. "That’s why there’s an extra effort this year to make sure things are controlled."
This weekend's temperatures will be lower, with a high of 43 degrees forecast for Saturday and 42 for Sunday. Partying epicenter Clark Street will remain open to traffic this year, though it will probably be a slow crawl for cars on Saturday.
Cops will only shut down the street in an emergency. They said closing the street might escalate trouble.
"Once you close Clark, you lost control," Voulgaris said.
Voulgaris initially talked of "zero tolerance" for public disturbances during heavy party events after the Twelve Bars of Christmas bar crawl last year became violent and drew complaints from the neighborhood. It was his first big test as commander, and at the time he said "We need to do a better job of containing the idiots from going into the neighborhood."
Voulgaris is under fire from supervisors after robberies increased fivefold in January from the same period last year, he said. February robberies decreased from January, but the area still had more than twice as many robberies as the same period last year.
"I'm not Catholic," Voulgaris joked as he left Ann Sather, "but I'm praying about this weekend."