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Tunney Grilled On Promise For More Cops Amid Rise In Thefts, Burglary Spree

By Ariel Cheung | February 5, 2016 8:42am
 Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) is being held to his promise to bring more police officers to the Town Hall District.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) is being held to his promise to bring more police officers to the Town Hall District.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

LAKEVIEW — Following what police called a "bad couple of months" for crime in Lakeview, neighbors are grilling officials on the results of a promise for more police in the area.

Since Oct. 1, the 19th District force has grown by 15 officers, said Chris Jessup, who handles public safety relations for Ald. Tom Tunney's (44th) office. That number includes eight who were transferred into the district in November.

In that same amount of time, several high-profile cases in Lakeview have neighbors on edge; during one of the first community policing meetings of 2016 Wednesday, a packed room of 30 neighbors voiced their concerns.

Two high-profile crimes in particular took place within a month of one another — a "brutal" home invasion Jan. 9 in the 3600 block of North Magnolia Avenue and a Wrigleyville shootout in December.

Police arrested three men in the home invasion, who were part of a "mini crew" that would burglarize the area regularly, said CAPS Sgt. Jason Clark. Two additional men involved in the alleged ring are also "off the street now," he said.

That same day, two other burglaries took place when people were home, police said at the meeting. The crime patterns "fit this crew," but it will take time for detectives to officially connect the cases.

"With those arrests, we're hoping our numbers will now take a nice dive down," Clark said.

A tense exchange during the meeting left neighbors confused as to how many officers they'd been promised. Tunney told them Wednesday there would be 10 additional officers in the first quarter, with 30 total coming in 2016 — five fewer than originally promised.

When neighbors asked for clarification, Tunney stood firm.

"I'm telling you what I committed to," he said. "I don't know where your information is coming from."

Tunney eventually conceded after one person read from Tunney's own newsletter announcing the deal.

"I might be wrong — I'm not saying that — but I'm saying the vacancies are fluid," he said. "What I want to be held accountable for when we go into the budget vote is to make sure we've got that 30-plus, 35. To know the mayor committed to what he committed to us, Ald. [James] Cappleman and I, for the 19th."

After the meeting, Jessup clarified that Tunney had misspoke and that his office was still expecting the 25 officers this quarter and 35 total.

Tunney and Cappleman (46th) traded votes for the $589 million property-tax increase in exchange for a promise from Mayor Rahm Emanuel — and now-former Chicago Supt. Garry McCarthy — for more police officers in the Town Hall District. Also known as the 19th District, it includes Lakeview and parts of Lincoln Park, Uptown, Lincoln Square and North Center.

Tunney said at the time that 25 officers would be assigned to the district during the first three months of 2016, with 10 more following during the rest of the year.

Keeping a net increase in officers has been challenging with a slew of retirements and staffing change-ups. McCarthy's firing by Emanuel amid uproar amid police misconduct charges could also throw the promise into uncertain territory, since the aldermen have little power over district manpower.

"Obviously a lot has happened since last November, but that is the commitment the mayor has made to me personally and our community," Tunney said Wednesday.

Central and east Lakeview police beats saw an increase in thefts last year, said Clark. Police also pointed to burglaries as a current issue. Of 49 burglaries that took place in the area Dec. 3 to Feb. 3, almost half involved unlocked doors or garages, police said.

Almost all the 37 apartment burglaries involved first-floor apartments.

Police suggested block clubs, neighborhood phone trees and court advocacy as ways neighbors could help with policing efforts. Equipping themselves with pepper spray was also recommended.

"Every officer is going to want more officers, but we work with what we have," Clark said. "We need neighbors to work with us and do their part, too."

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