LAKEVIEW — More than 80 residents came to a community policing meeting Wednesday night with a mission: Find a way to get more cops for the neighborhood.
In the last three months, beat 1924 — a bar-heavy area bordered by Belmont, Addison, Southport and Halsted — saw more robberies than any other beat in the city with 42 incidents. The beat with the next-highest number of robberies, at 38, is in Roseland.
It's also the only North Side beat to land in the Top 10 beats for violent crimes, with 57 incidents in the last three months.
"I think people know there are a bunch of chumps here, so it’s easy picking. It’s not fair that we pay high taxes and all the police go to the South and the West sides," said one man, who was applauded by the room.
But Town Hall Police Cmdr. Elias Voulgaris, who has been in the position just a year, said while he understands there is a concern, residents probably were not considering all factors in comparing their beat with beats in other neighborhoods.
Beat 1924 is more loaded with bars and nightlife than other areas, he said. It's more populated and attracts far more visitors late at night, especially with some bars staying open until 4 a.m.
South Side beats have fewer robberies because nobody is walking around that late at night, he said.
"I'm not making excuses," he said. "I'm telling you, you have to look at other factors."
Overall crime on the beat is down by 69 incidents from the same period last year, representing a 9 percent dip. Robberies have dipped by four incidents, or 7 percent; burglaries are down 44, or 59 percent; and motor vehicle thefts are down 26, or 58 percent.
Thefts went up by seven, a 2 percent increase, and criminal sexual assaults doubled from five last year to 10 this year.
Voulgaris credited declines with a tactic police and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) have been promoting for months: educating people on how not to be victims.
Reminding people to lock doors helped with burglaries, Voulgaris said, and advising people to keep personal items out of cars helped with car thefts. For robberies, police have continuously emphasized people should not walk around with their phones out and should avoid alleys after nights out at the bar, he said.
Of 20 robberies in June, 14 did not involve weapons, and many were early morning iPhone thefts that could have been avoided with more victim awareness, he said.
When residents asked how they could help police, Voulgaris repeated the need for people to educate their neighbors, to report crimes and and to send feedback to police.
But many residents were not satisfied with his answer. Though much of the meeting was calm, it started and ended with pointed fingers and raised voices as residents pushed for more officers while Voulgaris defended his choices.
Some asked how to get the city to bring more police to the neighborhood — whether it be through petitioning the superintendent or lining up at a City Council meeting.
"There is a powder-keg situation here," said resident Ron Woods, who also said he thinks the crime numbers show a fraction of what actually happens.
Every police chief in the country probably wants more officers, Voulgaris said, but the number of people flooding into the neighborhood on weekends would require "a lot more officers."
The way to move forward is to "use officers more effectively," he said.
The commander has promoted a tactic in which officers must stay on their beats. A dedicated entertainment detail that started at the beginning of this year is supposed to help during the peak time for crime from 1-5 a.m., he said. And some administrative and community policing officers may be on the street soon, he said.
"You deserve whatever policing we can get you," Voulgaris said. "It's not just a manpower issue. It's policing."