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Mag Mile Violence: 'We Were There, We Were on Top of It,' McCarthy Says

By  Erica Demarest and Lizzie Schiffman Tufano | April 1, 2013 12:43pm | Updated on April 1, 2013 3:06pm

CHICAGO — Chicago cops “were on top of it” when 28 young people were arrested Downtown over Easter weekend, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Monday.

On Saturday night, 11 people, including 9 juveniles, were arrested in connection with a robbery near the State-Lake Red Line station after coordinating a trip Downtown via Twitter, authorities said.

Another 17 were arrested near Michigan and Chicago avenues for fighting one another. All but two were minors.

“We were there, we were on top of it, and we dispersed it immediately,” McCarthy said at a news conference at the Calumet District police station Monday.

“I also want to be clear: There were no assaults, robberies or property damage that was reported” at the time of the 17 Mag Mile arrests, McCarthy said.

He stressed the youths involved in that incident were not organized and were fighting with one another — not attacking passersby.

“If they were organized, it would be an entirely different story,” McCarthy said.

But for people who lived nearby, the melee hit too close to home.

Mitchell Rose, the property manager of the condominium tower at 777 N. Michigan Ave., said his office was flooded with calls from residents Saturday night when the fight erupted at Michigan and Chicago avenues.

Rose said property owners in the Michigan Avenue residence watched the fight from their windows, and called the security desk to report that they were afraid to leave the building.

Police said the scuffle broke out near the intersection close to Water Tower Place, and Rose said the group migrated to the entrance of 777 N. Michigan Ave.

Rose said that at one point, participants in the fight tried to make their way into the building's entryway through the revolving doors, further frightening residents who were watching from their windows above.

Coming on the heels of a bloody Easter weekend — in which two were slain and at least 20 were wounded by gunfire — many Chicagoans have wondered whether police are ready for the uptick in crime that usually accompanies rising temperatures.

“The fact is — nice weather, people go Downtown,” McCarthy said. “And those kids have every right to go Downtown. But the behavior that they engage in — if it’s illegal, they will be arrested quickly and prosecuted.”

The stretch of Michigan Avenue where the fight broke out is currently part of the 42nd Ward, under Ald. Brendan Reilly's jurisdiction. But in two years, when the city's new ward map takes effect, it will join the 2nd Ward.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said violence involving young people in the Loop and Gold Coast is a problem he's already gearing up to face.

"Obviously it's problematic when we pull police from our districts to guard the northern Michigan [Avenue] area, but we need more police, and I'm concerned about the summer," Fioretti said.

"As the weather gets warmer, we can expect more of these types of incidents," Fioretti said. "The use of social media is hard to track and creates these situations. We have a lack of education and job opportunities for our kids, all of which contribute to the violence we see, not only on Michigan Avenue, but around Chicago."

Gail Rutkowski, president of the Greater South Loop Association, called the incident and related arrests "unfortunate," not just for the community, but for the youths involved.

"These kids don't think about the fact that [this] brief encounter can ruin their entire lives, should they be convicted and get a police record," Rutkowski said. "Is it worth it?"

Ald. Reilly did not respond to requests for comment, but issued a lengthy statement Monday afternoon assuring constituents that he was in contact with police "to request a detailed plan for the 2013 Warm Weather Season, to deter these incidents as the weather continues to improve."

Reilly joined Fioretti in calling for more police to be assigned to the central business district.

McCarthy touted a quick police response to Saturday's conflicts as a sign authorities are prepared for the coming months.

During the CTA incident, “we immediately made an arrest,” he said. “We locked up 11 people for that robbery.”

McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel said several strategies, including community-based policing and targeting ‘hot spots,’ are in place to rein in crime.

“It’s noting the numbers, evaluating what worked, reinforcing what works, and changing what doesn’t work, so we get better results," Emanuel said at the news conference.

While many will focus on the high-profile Mag Mile arrests, “a 69 percent drop in homicides will also say something,” Emanuel said, referencing the city’s March 2013 murder rate.

Emanuel said he and McCarthy meet frequently to reassess the city’s crime strategies.

“All of us are accountable,” he said. “Garry [McCarthy] is accountable.  ... The aldermen are accountable. I’m accountable. The Police Department — all of us responsible to the public are accountable.”