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Cappleman: Curbing Public Drinking, Vagrancy Will Reduce Uptown Crime

By Adeshina Emmanuel | October 10, 2013 10:25am
 An undercover police operation in July nabbed 14 people who are suspected of taking part in gang and drug activity near an Uptown crime hotspot where  eight people were shot  in June, officials said.
uptown undercover sting
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UPTOWN — Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said Wednesday that problems with gun violence and drug dealing in Uptown are tied to public drinking and vagrancy — and that a new program aimed at addressing those issues is coming to Uptown this year.

Two shootings in August on West Wilson Avenue in Uptown happened in areas known for vagrancy and loitering.

"Everywhere we've had shootings we've had a lot of public drinking," said Cappleman, whose North Side ward includes most of Uptown and part of Lakeview.

Cappleman's comments came at a Wednesday night CAPS meeting. Several residents there complained about vagrancy, aggressive panhandling and disruptive behavior from some of the homeless people living in Uptown.

Cappleman, who had a controversial dustup earlier this year with the Salvation Army related to the agency's outreach methods toward the poor and homeless in the area, announced what he said would be a "first of its kind joint venture," in Uptown.

The Chicago Department of Family & Support Services, the Chicago Department of Public Health, police, the 46th Ward office and a yet-to-be named social service agency are partnering to address chronic homeless and public drinking in the community, Cappleman said.

An Uptown resident at the meeting wanted to know more about the specific services that would help these people. She hoped solving the problem would include helping people get into shelters and not just getting them to leave Uptown.

Cappleman said shelters could be part of the solution. He said about $111,000 in funds have been secured for the first year of the program, though he wouldn't share further details about the plan just yet.

The city will hire a social service agency that specializes in helping people break the cycle of chronic homelessness and solve substance abuse problems, according to Cappleman.

He said he didn't know if the agency would be one from Uptown, a neighborhood with one of the highest concentrations of social service agencies in the city.

The program should kick off in mid-December or early January, Cappleman said.

Drug dealers in the neighborhood, "do not like it when there's not a lot of public drinking in an area, because the drinking makes it easier to sell drugs," Cappleman said, referencing the broken windows theory.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani adopted and helped popularize the approach in the 1990s in his city, which saw huge decreases in crime, although the popularity of the approach faded amid criticism that cops became too aggressive.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy are fans of the broken windows strategy. Emanuel is supporting an ordinance that would crack down on "small, petty crimes so that things don't emerge to bigger problems."