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With Cubs Playoffs Looming, Lakeview Asks Police: Are We Safe?

By Ariel Cheung | October 6, 2016 8:26am
 With Cubs playoffs starting Friday, Lakeview neighbors like Joe Vitek asked police Wednesday what additional safety measures would be in place.
With Cubs playoffs starting Friday, Lakeview neighbors like Joe Vitek asked police Wednesday what additional safety measures would be in place.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

LAKEVIEW — Joe Vitek has called 911 more in the past month than in the 17 years he has lived in Lakeview.

He said he helped stop a battery in progress over Labor Day weekend and, most recently, called Tuesday to report a group of more than a dozen people smoking marijuana and drinking in front of his house.

In all, he's made five calls in a month.

"I give you guys credit because every time I've called, there's been a tremendous response" up until Tuesday, Vitek told police at a Wednesday night meeting. On Tuesday he waited 23 minutes until police showed up, which was "a little absurd," he said.

And with Chicago Cubs playoffs drawing more than 40,000 people into Wrigley Field for games starting Friday, he and other neighbors want to know the plans.

"What do we expect — what additional resources are being brought into [the neighborhood] — when we have thousands more people in the neighborhood and potentially hundreds more criminals lurking around?" Vitek asked.

But police aren't dishing many details.

"I'll tell you we have additional resources coming," Town Hall Cmdr. Robert Cesario told Vitek at Wednesday's community policing beat meeting. "The number [of officers] depends on the day. We have different plans in place. Rest assured, we have additional resources coming."

RELATED: Lakeview Crime Sees Steep Increase, But Is It Worse Than 10 Years Ago?

Cesario did say plans center around Clark and Addison immediately around Wrigley Field, but there will also be additional patrols stretching out through the neighborhood.

Plainclothes officers will join uniformed patrols, so the public might not realize how large the Wrigley Field force is, the commander added.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and the Chicago Cubs will speak Thursday afternoon on postseason plans.

Town Hall District Cmdr. Robert Cesario sits second from right during a community policing meeting in Lakeview Wednesday. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

The Town Hall District currently has 378 sworn officers, Cesario said Wednesday, pushing the force beyond the 375 officers promised by the end of 2016.

At least one squad car patrols each of the 15 beats that cover Lakeview and portions of Uptown, Lincoln Square, North Center and Lincoln Park, officials have said in the past.

Additional officers in the district's entertainment detail are sent to portions of Lakeview like Boystown, Wrigleyville and Clark and Belmont to attend to boisterous bar crowds and the bustling Belmont "L" station.

There was a massive presence during this year's Pride Parade, although that was partially due to the attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando days prior.

Recently, the CTA pledged to station a security guard dog at the Belmont station from 2 p.m.-6 a.m. daily, reacting to a drove of neighbors furious over the flow of criminal activity from the station.

RELATED: Police, CTA Bring In The Dogs As Crime At Belmont "L" Station Spikes

If Wednesday's packed meeting was any reflection, it seems neighbors feel no safer, despite the increased police presence. Some said they felt social service groups like the Center on Halsted or Broadway Youth Center needed better screening to determine whether services were being inappropriately doled out.

Center on Halsted spokesman Peter Johnson assured the crowd that the LGBTQ community center hires private security, enacts a screening process and sends a representative to court when a crime takes place inside the building at 3656 N. Halsted St.

Police and the streets department have ramped up towing of cars on Clark and Halsted during weekends, officials said. At least 20 cars are being towed on Friday and Saturday nights for not having parking permits or otherwise parking illegally.

That helps prevent people from throwing parties from their cars, which is "really a significant problem," said Greg Kawliche, president of the Southport Neighbors Association.

"Young kids along Clark Street are just sort of sitting in their cars and drinking, smoking, not really patronizing the bars," he said.

RELATED: A Thousand Strong And Growing — What's Next For Taking Back Lakeview?

Boystown bar owner Stu Zirin said police and bar owners do what they can, but single servings of alcohol from stores and gas stations enable drinking in the street. 

"The people say we need more police, but are we willing to pay for more police?" Zirin asked. "These guys are bending over backward, and it's not their issue. It's our issue."

When asked outright whether he thought the district's manpower levels were sufficient, Cesario demurred.

"I work with the number of officers I've got," Cesario said.

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