ROGERS PARK — In response to "heightened tension" in the area, Chicago Police are patrolling Rogers Park and other nearby neighborhoods with a police helicopter, Ald. Joe Moore says.
"The Police Department is including Rogers Park and other North Side neighborhoods as part of its routine patrols, much like a squad car, except it is up in the air and can cover more territory more quickly," Moore wrote in an email newsletter to constituents Wednesday.
He said the helicopter was complementing additional police resources on the ground in an effort to fight crime in the area. There have been several high-profile murders in the neighborhood this year, including that of photographer William Lewis, who was hit by a stray bullet on Devon Avenue in July, and of Markeyo Carr, who was gunned down at a McDonald's in February.
Ben Woodard says community reactions to the helicopters has been mixed:
Police have assigned the Organized Crime Unit, which Moore says has made eight arrests in the past week, and there are additional mass transit officers at the Howard and Morse CTA Red Line stations.
The effort is "part of an overall strategy to boost police presence and tamp down on the violence. Police in a helicopter can see things that officers on the ground may not be able to see. Plus it sends a message to those contemplating violence."
The helicopter is patrolling the Rogers Park District, which includes Rogers Park, West Rogers Park/West Ridge and a small part of north Edgewater, as well as the lakefront, Moore said.
Police spokesman Martin Maloney would not comment on the air patrols, but said helicopters "are primarily used for visual surveillance" and "deployed based on operational needs of the day or specific situations, and have been since 2006."
Moore said the helicopters would not remain in the neighborhood long-term.
"The Police Department does not intend for the helicopter to become a permanent fixture in our neighborhood, but during this time of heightened tension, they believe it could be a useful tool," he wrote.
But residents have noticed the more frequent visits of the helicopters.
Helicopter spotlight on rogers and Clark. Four nights of police helicopters in rogers park. Meh. http://t.co/eLGXuvi671— lewis lain (@lewislain) September 16, 2014
Lulled to sleep by the police helicopter that circles Rogers Park every night now— coma nurse (@ietron) September 16, 2014
Jared Toporek asked in a Facebook post on Monday, "What the hell is going on around here?"
Resident Sara Koehnke, 24, said she saw the helicopter hovering over the neighborhood on Monday and wasn’t sure why it was there.
“I’m not sure I should feel concerned or relieved,” she said, adding that she could understand why the police would need the chopper for surveillance.
But, she said, “To me, it seems extreme."
While Moore acknowledged people "have come to associate helicopters in the air with bad events, such as a train derailment, hostage crisis, capsized boat in Lake Michigan and the like," he said the patrols are mainly "routine patrol only. Occasionally, however, it may be called into service to assist the police in certain incidents."
One recent incident where the helicopter assisted police on the ground was in response to reports of "shots fired" on Monday night near the intersection of Clark Street and Rogers Avenue. Moore wrote that officers pursued suspects to a nearby building and the chopper arrived to support the officers from the air.
"It turned out that the men had fireworks in their possession," Moore wrote, "and were shooting the fireworks in observance of Mexican Independence Day."
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