BELMONT CRAGIN — Emotions ran high Thursday night at a neighborhood meeting convened in the wake of Tuesday's sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl, a crime Chicago's top cop said was committed by a "monster."
"We're going to make sure that we catch this monster," Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said.
"Try not to go out by yourself. Don't let children go out by themselves, if you could avoid it."
More than 100 Belmont Cragin residents gathered at Northwest Community Church, 5318 W. Diversey Ave., to hear updates from police, local politicians and members of the Northwest Side Housing Center, which promptly organized the meeting Wednesday.
While voicing their anger over the vicious attack by the still unknown assailant Tuesday morning, many residents also expressed their anger and frustration with police and the politicians who took turns speaking at the meeting Thursday night.
The 15-year-old girl was walking southbound about 6 a.m. Tuesday in the 2400 block of North Long Avenue in Belmont Cragin when she was attacked.
"I'm tired of this s---," said Raquel Castenada, 26, referring to both the sexual assault and police response to the crime. "I didn't find out [about the sexual assault] from the news, I looked out my own window."
"I have no faith in the police — the police station is right around the corner," she added, drawing the the most vigorous applause of the night. "All I hear from them is the obvious — 'Something needs to be done.' Obviously."
Residents were clear in their demands for greater security and quicker response times from community leaders at the packed meeting as Chicago Public Schools officials and local politicians, including Ald. Nick Sposato (36th), state Rep. Toni Berrios, Ald. Ariel Reboyres (30th), Ald. Ray Suarez (31st) and state Rep. Luis Arroyo reassured attendees that the case was being handled properly.
Two of the community representatives referred to the "monster" still loose and demanded he be captured and brought to justice. Members of the community demanded a greater police presence to catch the violent criminal.
"We're going to chase them out of here, and how to we do that? By getting involved," Arroyo told the crowd. "This monster ... [he's] going to pay for this."
Police officers and the detective in charge of the the 15-year-old victim's case, Andrew Schoeff, were also there to respond to residents' concerns. The problem, Schoeff said, is that police just don't know anything about the suspect at this time, including a basic description.
According to Schoeff, progress on the case has been hampered in part because the victim is still unconscious and unable to help. Leads on the case are being followed, he said, and some of them are more promising than others.
The sexual assault took place within a half-block of a Safe Passage route — one that serves at least four schools in the area.
Earlier Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the Safe Passage program extends beyond defined, protected routes for children heading to and from school.
"Every street in the City of Chicago, regardless of where it is, regardless of the hour, should be a safe street for the children of the City of Chicago. I don't care what time of day, and I don't care what route it's on," the mayor said at an unrelated news conference Thursday. "If you are an adult, you are part of the Safe Passage system."
That same sentiment was echoed by community leaders Thursday night, who urged residents to become more engaged with their blocks and call police if they notice suspicious activity.
"This is an awesome turnout for an ugly situation," Sposato said. "It just goes to show how much the community cares about this issue."
According to the Northwest Side Housing Center, a second public meeting will take place Jan. 10 at 10 a.m. at an as-yet-unknown location, during which CPS security officials have committed to present their findings in an effort to improve security in the area.