LAKEVIEW — With a few days left in the year, crime numbers in Lakeview surpassed 2015 totals — but remained lower than expected.
A quiet November and early December reversed an upward crime trend that had showed no signs of slowing as recently as Halloween.
As of Dec. 19 — the most recent date for which city crime data is available — crime in Lakeview had increased almost 5 percent compared with 2015. But that's significantly lower than the projected rise of almost 12 percent that was based on the average monthly crime reported in the first half of 2016.
The numbers more directly correlate with temperature fluctuations than an increase in Town Hall District police manpower, which will reach a four-year high Jan. 1 with 385 officers, the district reported Friday.
That's not surprising to newly assigned Town Hall District Cmdr. Marc Buslik, who said it's "very difficult to correlate the number of police officers and crimes."
Still, news of a lower than projected rise in major crimes is welcome for Lakeview neighbors, who have taken to hiring private security guards to patrol their blocks in the hopes of supplementing Police Department patrols of the densest North Side neighborhood.
"We are not resting on public safety issues," said Chris Jessup, spokesman for 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney. "We know the perception is that crime is rampant and are working to help lower crime statistics, as well as make sure residents and guests feel safer in the 44th Ward."
There is some bad news: Robberies and burglaries — two frequently discussed topics at Town Hall police community meetings — soared this year.
Armed robberies increased by 50 percent, from 71 in 2015 to 107 in 2016 as of Dec. 19. Robberies overall — which include incidents without the use of a weapon — have increased 35 percent, from 195 in 2015 to 263 so far in 2016.
"I know people tend to focus on the 'armed' part," Buslik said. "But I'm concerned with the robbery confrontation."
To combat the rise in violent acts, Buslik said police try to identify likely criminals "and intervene in those people's lifestyles."
Also, teams of plainclothes officers are focusing on robberies during overnight shifts, he said.
Buslik urged residents to be aware of their surroundings and to avoid talking on their cellphones while walking alone to lessen their chances of becoming targets.
The number of burglaries also climbed, largely due to a 38 percent increase in burglaries involving unlawful entry, a means of entering a dwelling without force, via an unlocked door, for example.
Burglars who get in homes by removing air conditioners from windows and climbing through are committing unlawful entry, Town Hall officers said.
Officer Tom Walsh (from leftt), CAPS Sgt. Mary Hein and former Town Hall District Cmdr. Robert Cesario discussed crime stats and offered crime prevention tips to neighbors during a community policing meeting this fall. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
Having been the victim of a burglary, Buslik said he understands the desire to keep windows open in warm months or leave garages unlocked for easy access.
But "these things we're comfortable doing also make it comfortable for burglars to do what they do," he said.
When certain neighborhoods in the district become burglary targets, Buslik said his tactic is to send more officers through nearby alleys, since that's how burglars frequently access multiple homes.
"If you get a ticket because you're parked in an alley, there's a good chance it was an officer looking for burglars," Buslik said.
Forced entry burglaries also increased, but only by 10 percent. Thefts from vehicles increased by 7 percent.
Had it not been for the huge drop in crime from October to November — 109 incidents compared to 180 — Lakeview would have experienced the largest spike in major crime in more than a decade.
The DNAinfo analysis of crime figures in Lakeview focused on six major crimes — robbery, assault, sexual assault, battery, burglary and thefts from vehicles — that the FBI suggests are most representative of overarching crime trends. A seventh, homicide, was not included, as the rarity in Lakeview was not statistically significant.
Thefts are not included in the analysis, as Chicago Police switched to reporting only felony thefts — those involving $500 or more in stolen property — in 2011, providing an incomplete picture of the trends over time.
Did more police make Lakeview safer?
In the first half of 2016, the Town Hall District added 34 officers to serve Lakeview and portions of North Center, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square and Uptown.
But the surge in manpower did little to reduce crime, with the monthly number of major crimes continuing to increase month-over-month through July.
Since August, the number has dropped, returning to the average of about 140 major crimes committed per month that Lakeview experienced in the first four months of 2016.
The 19th District, also known as the Town Hall District, merged with the 23rd in 2012, now encompassing all of Lakeview and parts of Lincoln Park, Uptown, Lincoln Square and North Center. [Chicago Police Department]
During the summer crime surge — which extended into fall during unseasonably warm weather — the neighborhood had an average 33 percent more crime than during the colder months of 2016.
Manpower in the Town Hall District went up and down over the summer, going from 369 officers in May up to 374 in June and July before dropping to 366 in October.
Before the district announced Friday that its ranks had grown the most since at least August 2013 — with 385 officers for the start of January 2017 — the most officers it had reported were 378 in September, followed by the 374 officers in June and July.
Ald. Tom Tunney (right) said he voted for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's massive property tax hike in fall 2015 in part to secure more police manpower for the Town Hall Police District. [DNAinfo/Ted Cox]
Lakeview crime reached its height in July, with 181 reported major crimes reported. Police responded to 180 crimes in October before that number dropped to 109 in November.
The addition of seven officers at the end of this year fulfills the promise Tunney and 46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman made late last year to add 43 total officers to the Town Hall District by the end of this year.
The pledge to reach 375 officers in the district in exchange for votes in favor of a massive property tax hike came perilously close to falling a couple officers short at the start of December, when there were 372 officers in the district.
And Tunney will continue to push for more officers in 2017, Jessup said.
In the last year, Tunney has assured neighbors that the district's reported staffing numbers do not include officers who are detailed out of the district, providing a more accurate figure of police manpower across the five neighborhoods.
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