RIVER NORTH — Crime in the 42nd Ward ranges from Mag Mile "wilding" robberies to scofflaw dog owners shirking poop duties — and Ald. Brendan Reilly hopes to fight it all with a plan to put more cops on the street in his neighborhoods.
Reilly lobbied the City Council to factor his "supplemental off-duty cop program" into the new budget at Monday's City Club of Chicago luncheon, where he was the featured speaker. He discussed the state of his ward in the central business district.
"Mayor Emanuel and Supt. McCarthy are working to maximize the number of cops on the street and stretch resources in order to drive down the number of shootings on the streets of Chicago. The City Council supports these efforts," Reilly said in a speech that repeatedly praised the mayor's work on several issues, but slammed the new parking meter hours that penalize River North exclusively.
"I know why the mayor's budgets cannot call for the hiring of hundreds of officers. That said, today I'm renewing my request that my supplemental off-duty cop program be heard in the City Council's budget committee, an ordinance I renewed months ago."
Reilly called the proposal — which would fund off-duty police work at $30-$35 an hour with donations from "civic leaders, wealthy families, businesses" — a "win-win" for junior cops who don't qualify for existing overtime programs, and for neighborhoods that would benefit from an increased police presence.
"This could be a model used in business quarters, this could be a model used in difficult, high-crime areas. It's really, truly a scalable model that can be custom-tailored to address each neighborhood's specific needs," Reilly said, calling the plan "stop-gap measure until the mayor and the City Council are able to stabilize this struggling budget."
Reilly emphasized that the overtime plan could increase police presence citywide. In neighborhoods with fewer philanthropic individuals and businesses, the downtown alderman suggested there may be donors interested in "giving the gift of public safety to a neighborhood experiencing tremendous challenges."
Business organizations were reticent when the plan first failed to make it through City Council last fall.
While at the mic, Reilly reiterated the need for River North's parking meter hours to be re-evaluated after Emanuel blindsided the alderman with a plan that extended metered hours only in the 42nd Ward to fund breaks for other neighborhoods in April.
"As we continue to promote development and growth Downtown, in addition to adding more transit-oriented development incentives, we also need to dramatically reduce parking requirements," Reilly said toward the end of his hourlong speech.