EAST VILLAGE — Badges and guns are back in the neighborhood, though they're not attached to Chicago Police officers and you can't just walk into the old cop station on Wood Street and file a report about a stolen car — as one man was observed to be attempting recently.
Ed Burke, Jr., Chief of the Cook County Sheriff's Central Warrant Unit, said he expects people will eventually realize the former Wood Street Police Station at 937 N. Wood St. is "not a police station anymore."
Though it's not open to public, on Wednesday residents can take a tour of the new headquarters for the Cook County Sheriff's Central Warrant Unit, located in the East Village.
The family-friendly tour will include non-alcoholic refreshments, the opportunity to sit in a squad car and demonstrations by an elite dog unit that helps find missing people and sniff for bombs and drugs.
Closed since last December due to budget cuts, the Chicago police officers from the station were consolidated with the 12th District to create a Near West District, located at 1412 S. Blue Island Ave. on the border of Little Italy and Pilsen neighborhoods.
The plan to transfer the Central Warrants Unit to the 9,000 square-foot building on Wood Street was approved by the Cook County Board in February, and terms of a 10-year lease were passed in the City Council in March.
Unlike police officers who patrol streets and respond to 911 calls, county warrant officers look for fugitives who have warrants for outstanding crimes, ranging from lack of child support payments to murder.
Burke said a little over 100 employees from three shifts have been working out of the station since earlier in the month.
The move represents a merging of two Sheriff's units that previously worked out of separate quarters: the fugitive and electronic monitoring division out of Maywood, and child enforcement, domestic battery and civil warrants out of a juvenile facility at Western and Ogden avenues.
The new station, open 24 hours, encompasses divisions led by Burke and Deputy Director Bob O'Neil that are tasked with tracking down some 42,000 open warrants in Cook County.
The consolidation represents the first time that all of the Sheriff's Police officers and clerks in the Central Warrants Unit will be working under the same roof.
The interior renovation on the building were "done on a shoe string budget" for the past three months, Burke said.
Some of the larger tasks involved removing 15 holding cells and resurfacing the parking lot," Burke said.
The building will not house any prisoners and will only be used for officers to question individuals before transferring them to other facilities, Burke told residents in May.
For his part, Burke said he's been enjoying checking out the new neighborhood during lunch and estimated he's been to Division Street's Smoke Daddy "maybe 15 times" since moving in about four months ago and overseeing the building rehab.
After a 6 p.m. Wednesday "roll call" of employees, Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) will preside over a ribbon-cutting ceremony to welcome the sheriffs to the neighborhood. The ribbon cutting will be followed by a 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Open House Event, according to Moreno's weekly e-newsletter.
For more information about Wednesday's open house, call Moreno's ward office at 773-287-0101.