LAKEVIEW — Fighting robberies and burglaries will remain a primary goal for Lakeview police officers in 2014, but with fewer officers to help overall, police said.
Town Hall Police District Cmdr. Elias Voulgaris told neighbors Wednesday that robberies and burglaries "will remain the No. 1 focus of the 19th District," which covers Lakeview and parts of Uptown, Lincoln Park and Roscoe Village.
Voulgaris added more officers to the midnight shift, when most crime occurs, he said, including eight new officers who joined the district this month.
But the district also lost officers this year after 14 transfers and two retirements. As of November, Town Hall had 356 officers, down 21 percent from the year before.
"Some officers don't want to work midnight," Voulgaris said at the Triangle Neighbors meeting. "If they have the opportunity to work days in another district, they'll take it. If they have an opportunity to work closer to home, they'll take it."
Many residents demanded more police in the neighborhood last year after a Lakeview beat led the city in robberies, but Voulgaris said his hands still are tied. He said he hopes to make up for lost officers in the next set of transfers, though it's unclear when that will happen.
It's not that police don't want to work in Town Hall. The district always receives more applications than it can accept because it's a "nicer" district, said Capt. Bill Looney. The city decides how many officers each district receives, police said.
"It's not considered a retirement district, but it's a nicer district," Looney said. "A lot of people put bids in to come here. We can only take eight."
Crime in the district decreased by 17 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to police, including a 39 percent decline in burglaries and a 4 percent decline in robberies.
But critics, including a widely read crime blog, point to an overall rise in crime in the last decade. In the 44th ward alone, robberies went up 60 percent from 2006 to 2013, from 173 to 277, according to police data.
Lakeview ranked 11th out of 77 community areas in the number of robberies in the last year, according to police data. It had the 16th most crimes overall.
Though last January marked a nearly fivefold jump in robberies from the year before, the bulk of robberies seem to be staying away from Lakeview so far, Voulgaris said. The last few weeks have shown that many robberies are happening in other areas of the district and city, he said.
As he has in past meetings, Voulgaris emphasized the need for community involvement, hoping that the "yelling and finger-pointing" that marked summer community policing meetings are in the past.
"Like I've said before, I wish I had more officers, but I have to deal with what I have," Voulgaris said.