LINCOLN PARK — A number of neighborhood residents at a community meeting Monday questioned Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) about police presence in Lincoln Park after two armed robberies that occurred last week.
At the meeting, Smith called the separate crimes, which both occurred on Friday, unusual for the neighborhood and insisted the neighborhood was safe under the current policing levels.
"We had a very bad day last Friday and that's what it was, a very bad day," she said. "No trend."
Much of Monday night's meeting focused on the separate armed robberies that ruffled much of the neighborhood.
Smith has planned a public roll call in response to the crimes, both which occurred in the daytime, as a way to send a message. On Wednesday at 6 p.m., Town Hall District officers will receive their orders in a public roll call at the intersection of Mildred and Wrightwood avenues — the scene of the second robbery.
"The kind of crime that happened this week is completely outrageous and unacceptable," she said. "We have beat the drum and said we will not stand for it."
One resident at the meeting asked Smith if there was a chance of getting more police in the neighborhood.
Town Hall District Cmdr. Elias Voulgaris said he was working to beef up visibility in the street after the crimes, which both remain unsolved, but said his district, like many others in the city, had seen a drop in officers due to promotions and transfers.
He said he had assigned four additional officers to the area after Friday's crimes.
Voulgaris has stuck to his plan to move more officers onto the midnight shift when most crimes occur, but said it was difficult to staff the late shift.
"To answer it simply, I would love to have more officers, but I have to deal with the resources that I have," Voulgaris said. "Slowly, I hope we can bridge that gap."
Voulgaris said there were seven districts in the city with more sworn officers and 15 with fewer than Town Hall.
Voulgaris, who many in the crowd praised for his work as district commander, said he had lost dozens of officers due to retirements, promotions and transfers over the past two-and-a-half years since the Town Hall and Belmont districts merged.
At that time, in October 2011, the number of sworn police personnel in the combined districts was 468. As of May the total number of sworn officers in the Town Hall District was 350, according to a police response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
"I don't think there's any commander in the city that doesn't want more officers," Voulgaris said. "I certainly would welcome it."
Voulgaris said he was about 62 officers below strength.
"We would like to know what you have done about this in the [Town Hall] District," said Lincoln Park resident Bob Gilbert at Monday's meeting. "We want the police back."
Not much more information regarding the two crimes that prompted the larger-than-usual turnout was available at Monday's meeting.
Police said a robber who held up a woman in her 20s pointed a gun at the woman's baby, who was in a stroller. The two had just left the 7-Eleven at Wrightwood and Lincoln avenues about 3:30 p.m. when the robber approached her in an alley at Mildred and Wrightwood avenues while covering his face, according to police.
The man demanded her wedding ring and iPhone before fleeing.
Police said they believe the gunman, described as a 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8-inch Hispanic male wearing black pants, a grey hooded sweatshirt and black shoes, got on a Chicago Transit Authority train after the robbery.
"It really bothers me, first of all as a commander, and as a father," Voulgaris said. "I really want to get this guy."
Earlier in the day, about 1:10 p.m., two men and a woman brandishing weapons tied up two employees of Holzmann's Jewelry Store, 2304 N. Clark St., and robbed the business, according to police.
Smith's hope is that the community rallies together around a common message.
"We do not tolerate crime in Lincoln Park," she said.
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