BUCKTOWN — A rash of brazen crimes in Bucktown and Wicker Park have riled up community residents and prompted Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) and two other aldermen to demand more police patrols and "basic answers," according to a long and blistering blog post by the Bucktown alderman.
Accusing Chicago Police leaders of playing a "shell game" over staffing, Waguespack has suggested saturating areas with increased crime with police, bringing back the "Wicker Park Detail," a dedicated group of officers assigned to the bar-heavy entertainment district, and lastly, adding patrols to The 606, a five-park system connected by a 2.7-mile long elevated trail.
Waguespack's post, headlined "Response to WPB crime," comes during a week when a man was robbed at gunpoint by a group of six on a Sunday evening and a woman was mugged in front of her home at 7 a.m. on a Thursday, among other known crimes.
Waguespack is calling for a community meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8 in the Wicker Park field house, 1425 N. Damen Ave. that will coincide with a bimonthly community policing meeting. UPDATE: This gathering has been relocated to the auditorium of A.N. Pritzker School, 2009 W. Schiller St.
"We are working with neighbors on getting officials to the meeting including the Superintendent of Police, the 14th District Commander, all the Wicker Park Bucktown Aldermen (Hopkins, Moreno and I), and the Park District since they manage the 606 and surrounding parks. I am hoping the department heads all come to discuss their options, too," Waguespack wrote.
On Friday, Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) and Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) both confirmed they will be at the Feb. 8 meeting.
Officer Laura Amezaga, a Chicago Police spokeswoman, said the department is working on seeing if Supt. Eddie Johnson can attend the meeting. Amezaga also said police will be issuing a statement soon in response to Waguespack's request to bring back the "Wicker Park Detail."
Formed in 2003, the eight-member Wicker Park Entertainment Detail — part of the Shakespeare District spanning Wicker Park, Bucktown, Logan Square and Avondale — was discontinued on June 5.
According to a 2015 report, the detail devoted extra attention to "impact arrests," such as DUIs, drug possession, graffiti and other problems, as well as more mundane tasks like "clearing out" Wicker Park's namesake park each night at 11 p.m., a routine preceded by flashing lights and a bullhorn announcing — in English and Spanish — that people need to leave the park.
Waguespack said in his post that "The officers in the [Shakespeare District, 14th] are trying to respond as fast as they can to each call but they are spread thin."
"We should be bringing back some of the methods of intervention where funding police overtime alone won’t solve the continual drain on resources. The Department of Justice report released last week shows we need a lot of improvements in training, supervision and other aspects of policing but doesn’t address the problems with entities of government, including city hall, city council, and other agencies."
He continued, "The report doesn’t address the fact that there has been a shell game played with citizens or aldermen who want to obtain and review annual police reports, staffing allocations, overtime reports or manpower numbers or much of the other data and info needed to correctly run a billion dollar city department. I don’t know how a city police department of this size can operate without having these basics laid out for the public to see, and understand why policies are in place. The adherence to policies that are implemented without knowing these basics answers to policy positions has led to a disastrous approach and the decline of the rule of law."