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South Loop Leaders Say Residents 'Need to Have Street Smarts' After Attack

 Two women were pepper sprayed by three teens in the South Loop Wednesday.
Two women were pepper sprayed by three teens in the South Loop Wednesday.
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SOUTH LOOP — The South Loop is quickly being flooded with families, but that doesn't mean residents should let their guards down, especially when traveling at night.

That advice comes from Gail Rutkowski, president of the Greater South Loop Association, after two women in their mid-20s were assaulted with pepper spray by three teenage girls Wednesday night in the neighborhood.

The attacks both happened near the Roosevelt Red Line station around 10:20 p.m., one block from South Loop Elementary School.

Rutkowski said Thursday the neighborhood group is in touch with the Chicago Police Department and "have spoken to the First District about that area, and will continue to do so."

"I know that the First District has targeted that area as an area they pay extra attention to," Rutkowski said.

The community group leader said she has lived in the South Loop for over 20 years and has witnessed "a lot of changes," describing it as "more family-oriented."

A new school planned for the vacant lot behind the Roosevelt Collection will likely bring more families with children to the neighborhood soon.

Rutkowski said "families with young children are concerned about the streets being safe for their young ones."

But "in any city you need to have street smarts, and be aware of your surroundings," she added. "These things can happen in a city of any size. They even happen in the suburbs."

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said the age of the assailants — all minors — raises a second issue of concern.

"I see young people out and I ask, 'Where are the parents? Where's the parent control?' " he said.

"We've got to be strong in terms of laying down the law on a curfew, and curfew violations. This would be a better city, a safer city, if we made sure that everyone obeys the curfew laws...because nothing good happens after the curfew hours, especially on a school night.

"People should be home and preparing for the next day's lessons, or in bed," he said.

Fioretti echoed Rutkowski's warnings, encouraging residents in his ward to be aware of their surroundings.

"I personally have stopped, probably within the last year, three people from walking into a pole as they were texting," he said. "They didn't see it, they were so engrossed in what they were trying to do...Be careful when you have your iPhone plugged into both of your ears."

Police have the teens involved in the incident in custody, but have not yet identified a motive.