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Wicker Park Cops Get Earful on Police Response at Packed Meeting

By Alisa Hauser | October 10, 2013 10:11am
 Highlights from issues discussed at a beat CAPS meeting in Wicker Park Wednesday.
October Beat 1424 CAPS Meeting Concerns
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WICKER PARK —  In the wake of two recent shootings in Wicker Park, more than 50 people packed a community policing meeting Wednesday and complained about everything from what they believe is slow police response to emergency calls to a "gutter punk" exposing himself in the park.

The period between Aug. 14 and Oct. 9  was a busy two months for Beat 1424, with two shootings inside Wicker Park at 1425 N. Damen Ave. Beat 1424 is bordered by North Avenue, Division Street, Wood Street and Western Avenue.

One of the shootings in the park resulted in the death of Emmanuel Bass, 35, and another in the 1500 block of North Milwaukee resulted in the death of 19-year-old Miguel Delgado. No arrest has been made in Bass' shooting, but a 29-year-old man was arrested and charged with Delgado's murder.

Sgt. Joseph Giambrone told the residents the shootings were not connected and said police have increased foot patrols in the area.

A man asked police about gunshots fired in the 1200 block of Marion Court over the weekend.

Giambrone said that the police have descriptions of three men and found shell casings at the scene, while Sgt. Felipe Reyes added, "nobody was hit."

Jon and Megan Urban, who live in the 1300 block of North Bell Avenue, told police they've called 911 four times in one week and there's "clearly a problem" on their block and in the park. 

On Friday, while walking in the 1500 block of Wicker Park Avenue across from the park, Jon Urban said he saw a man put in a chokehold and robbed of his phone by three youths, who ran off.

In that instance, police were nearby and were "there in 20 seconds," Urban said. 

In two other instances in the last week, Urban said he witnessed a man casing his home and then watched him try to break into another home. He said he later saw the same man case his home again. Cops didn't show even after he called 911, he said.

"When they show up it's awesome, when they don't it's terrifying," Urban said of the police.

Another neighbor of the park praised the stepped-up police patrols.

"Kudos, you have done something in recent months, something has changed in the past two months," he said. "I like the behavior, and hope it stays."

Other issues brought up by residents included frustration with the homeless traveling youths — so-called "gutter punks" — who visit the area in warmer months. 

"He had his d--- in his hand at three o'clock in the afternoon circling the tree [urinating], and I've got my 3-year-old and 4-month-old with me," a man said, referring to an incident he witnessed on Tuesday.

"They are breaking the law, multiple laws, and nobody is doing anything about it," the man complained.

In coming weeks, there are plans to add a third security camera in the park and to share news of a drug bust involving federal agencies that will result in the arrest of several people citywide, including 12 people in Wicker Park, Reyes said.

Reyes shared statistics on crime during the period from Aug. 14 to Oct. 9.

Theft dominated the ''Top 10'' crimes during the two-month period, with 30 instances of theft under $500; 21 reports of theft over $500; 13 reports of theft from buildings, and seven reports of theft from pick-pocketing.

Theft from buildings saw the biggest surge, with 13 reports, compared with eight in the prior period (June 5-Aug. 14), while a decline occurred in simple battery, with 22 reports compared with 24 in the prior period.

There were 52 arrests made in Beat 1424 during the recent two-month period, with 13 of those arrests considered to be "impact arrests," involving issues of concern to residents of an area packed with nightclubs and plagued with graffiti.

On Sept. 12, Jennifer Mayer, 26, of the 3600 block of South Springfield Avenue, was arrested in the 1500 block of North Milwaukee Avenue for having more than 2,000 grams of pot, Reyes said. The marijuana had a street value of $40,000.

Another arrest involved aggravated battery to a police officer, while other arrests saw the capturing of taggers, who were caught defacing property in the 1400 and 1500 blocks of North Damen Avenue and on CTA property in the 2000 block of West North Avenue.

The hourlong meeting ended with an apology from Rich Moskal, director of the Chicago Film Office, which oversees television and film production in the city.

Moskal told residents that the awakening of residents at 1 a.m. Monday in the 1500 block of North Elk Grove Avenue because of filming for a TV show was "an unfortunate incident" and "wasn't supposed to happen.

"Measures are being taken to make sure it doesn't happen again," Moskal assured residents.

Beat 1424 CAPS generally meets at 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every even-numbered month in the Wicker Park Field House at 1425 N. Damen Ave. For more information, contact the Shakespeare District Community Policing Office at 312-744-8290 or CAPS.014District@chicagopolice.org.