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Long Wait for Police 'Appalling,' Victim of West Loop Daylight Attack Says

By Stephanie Lulay | July 2, 2015 5:40am
 Julia Evans said she waited more than an hour for police to respond to her 911 call after she was attacked last month in the West Loop.
Julia Evans said she waited more than an hour for police to respond to her 911 call after she was attacked last month in the West Loop.
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay

FULTON MARKET — Nearly a month after she was attacked in one of the city's most affluent neighborhoods in the middle of the day, Julia Evans is still shaken.

But that's not just because of the crime itself — Evans said what was most "appalling" was the slow police response. After being violently attacked by thieves, the 30-year-old waited more than an hour for officers to arrive on scene.

Evans, a yoga instructor and exercise therapist who lives in Bucktown, was assaulted during a car break-in that occurred at about 1:45 p.m. June 3 near the busy intersection of Washington Boulevard and Peoria Street in the West Loop.

Stephanie Lulay discusses the incident and police response:

The break-in was still in progress as Evans left a business meeting at swanky Soho House, 113 N. Green St. Her parking meter was about to expire, but instead of finding an orange ticket on her windshield, Evans discovered two young men rifling through her parked car on Washington.

"I realized both of my car doors were open and I was very confused," Evans said. "People were passing them on the street as they were doing this."

"I approached them and said, 'Is this your car?'" Evans said. "They didn't say anything, and at that point, one [man] pulled himself out of my car and I said, 'No. This isn't your car.'"

The young man grabbed her, hitting and scratching her across her arm and torso. Evans fought back, and the offenders walked away from the scene, stealing cash and medicine from her car in the process. No one came to her aid.

"They didn't run away. They nonchalantly walked away, almost like they hadn't done anything. Then I started screaming," she said.

Sobbing and bleeding, Evans immediately called 911 from her cell phone. After some trouble connecting to an operator, she said she told the responding operator that she was physically assaulted during a robbery and the offenders were fleeing the scene.

At that point, she was transferred to 311, or the city's nonemergency response system, which transferred the call back to 911, Evans said. An operator then indicated that police would be sent to the scene immediately, according to Evans.

Evans placed calls to 911 at 1:45 p.m, 1:47 p.m. and 1:55 p.m., according to her cell phone records. Then she waited.

"I was told by multiple 911 operators that someone was on the way," she said.

Finally, officers arrived on scene at 3:15 p.m., Evans said. They took a description of the men. She said she didn't seek medical attention at that point.

When Evans asked officers what took them so long to respond, the officers indicated that the afternoon shift change created a backlog in calls. Police officials confirmed last month that the 911 call was backlogged, meaning that officers on duty were attending to other incidents and enough police weren't available at the time to respond to the assault and robbery.

Essentially, there were not enough officers and too many calls.

"All I heard from [the officers] was that this time was a shift change, and the criminals probably knew that," Evans said. "Does that mean I should lock myself indoors from 1:30-3 p.m.?"

Officer Janel Sedevic, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Police Department, said police records show that the call came in at 1:58 p.m. June 3. A shift change of officers who began work at 5 a.m. occurs at 2 p.m. daily, Sedevic said.

During that time, the amount of officers fluctuates as one shift checks out and the second shift is checking in. If enough units aren't available to run out on calls, the Office of Emergency Management will "backlog" the call, assigning a car to run out to the scene when one becomes available.

Sedevic said two officers were dispatched to the scene at 2:47 p.m. and a report number was entered at 3:08 p.m. A report number is entered after the officers identify the victim and decide what type of crime occurred, she said.

Incidents are internally ranked by 911 operators on a numerical scale of 1 to 6. Shots fired qualifies as a "Priority 1" call, for example, while a report of a barking dog would qualify as a "Priority 6."

According to a law enforcement source, the assault and robbery was internally classified as a "Priority 2A" incident.

In a lengthy letter addressed to Near West District Cmdr. Ed Kulbida and Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), Evans recounted the incident, saying that the "absolute failure" of the Chicago Police Department "to attend to a single, young female in distress during a robbery and assault is appalling."

Evans said that she had always respected the hard work of the city's police and fire departments.

"This incident, however, has changed me for the worse," she wrote. "I am fearful to walk alone (even during the day, obviously) — not only because I realize now that there are dangerous and violent people who want to do me harm in this city, but almost more so because I don't believe the police officers who are hired to serve and protect are doing that."

Burnett called the lengthy response time "unacceptable."

"There's no excuse. They should still be able to have [officers available] to run out on calls during shift change," Burnett said. "I think 75 minutes definitely is a long time, too long even for a shift change. They dropped the ball on that one."

Burnett said he asked his staff to address the complaint with police, saying that Chicago residents should be able to count on a prompt response from police 24 hours a day. An effective plan should be in place to cover shift changes, he said.

"Outside of that, I don't directly control the police," Burnett said.

Evans' letter was also addressed to Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), because Evans lives in the 32nd Ward, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Kulbida, head of the Near West District, was on furlough this week, according to his office. A watch commander said the district could not comment.

Melissa Stratton, spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, would not comment on the incident despite multiple requests.

Besides a form letter from a detective in CPD's violent crimes unit, Evans said no one from the Near West District or Burnett's office responded to her email.

Back at the West Loop scene last month, Evans, a first-time victim, said that the crime was a "harsh" wake-up call.

"I finally know what everybody else is talking about," she said. "Police aren't the problem. It's the system that's not working."

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