BUCKTOWN — No more slaps on the wrist; beginning Friday, anyone on the under-construction Bloomingdale Trail will be handcuffed and arrested, police announced Wednesday.
Sgt. Felipe Reyes shared the news with community members at a packed Beat 1434 CAPS meeting Wednesday at the Bucktown-Wicker Park Library, 1701 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Bordered by Armitage Avenue on the north, North Avenue on the south, Wood Street on the east and Rockwell Street on the west, the "beat" encompasses about half the distance of the 2.7-mile Bloomingdale Trail — an elevated path and multiuse trail, which runs through the Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park neighborhoods.
Construction crews are working on the trail, making it "a dangerous place," Reyes told residents. "No one is supposed to be up there."
Interrupting Reyes, a resident blurted out, "But they're up there all the time!"
Reyes said those found on the trail — even joggers or walkers — will face charges of criminal trespassing.
On Wednesday, workers tore century-old railroad tracks from the ground on Bloomingdale Avenue between Ashland and Damen avenues, according to The 606 Project's tweets.
The tracks were elevated in 1910, after pedestrians were getting killed or injured by the passing trains, which ran across the sidewalk, Forgotten Chicago reports.
Previously, police warned people to stay off the trail, and in some cases issued administrative notices of violations, or ANOVs, which do not appear as an arrest on a person's criminal history.
Those facing criminal trespassing charges must appear before a judge at Cook County Branch 23 Criminal Court at 5555 W. Grand Ave.
Trespassers could be subject to warrants for their arrest if they don't show up to court.
After the meeting, Pat Pierini, who has lived along Bloomingdale Avenue at Wood Street for 11 years, said it's "gotten worse in past year" and "people have been up there at all hours."
"I am not talking about joggers," Pierini said.
Pierini described the trespassers as mainly "youths in the middle of the night."
"They will need to be arrested. It's unsafe. They could get hurt," she said of trespassers.
Currently, an entrance to the elevated trail adjacent to Park 567 — one of five ground-level access parks, which opened last month — is a point of entry for many trespassers.
An orange plastic barrier leading to the trail has been torn down, while "No Trespassing" signs are covered with graffiti tags.
Bonnie Tawse, a representative from The 606 project who was at the meeting, encouraged neighbors to call police if they see trespassers. The project's website provides weekly updates every Thursday providing information on construction timelines and dog park closures, she added.
The payoff when the $91 million project is complete in fall 2014 will be a larger dog park at Walsh Park and an elevated multiuse trail will be worth the sacrifice, many said.