LOGAN SQUARE — At a special meeting on Thursday night for residents who live near The 606's Bloomingdale Trail, police encouraged folks to continue using the 2.7-mile long elevated jogging, biking and walking path that runs through Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park.
"There is safety in numbers," Sgt. Adam Henkels, head of the Shakespeare District CAPS office, told about a dozen attendees at the gathering in the police station's auditorium at 2150 N. California Ave.
Through Thursday, there were 22 crimes reported on the trail over the past 16 months, Henkels said.
The bulk of the crimes were robberies — 13 — while the others were a mix of batteries, thefts and an attempted robbery that was stopped when another person witnessed it and the offender ran off, Henkels said.
A quarter of the 22 crimes happened after 10:30 p.m., near or after the park's 11 p.m. closing time. Another quarter occurred between 6 a.m. and noon. Half were between noon and 10:30 p.m.
When asked by a resident if he thinks the crime level is high or low, Henkels responded: "really modest."
Capt. Thomas Shouse added that while "even one [crime is too many]," given the fact the trail is "basically the size of a beat but stretched out and up in the air," it's fairly low.
Henkels urged continued use of the trail.
"The safest thing we can do as a community is use it, stay on it. The more people on it, the better," he said.
In addition to foot and bike patrols, police have begun using all-terrain vehicles to "close the trail" at 11 p.m. and during off peak hours.
Lt. Joseph Giambrone, who has been riding an ATV at night, said that he purposely rides slow, so people can feel comfortable approaching him.
"I am riding five miles per hour and get passed by joggers. The reception has been positive," Giambrone said.
And if someone does stop him to say there is a disturbance somewhere on the trail, Giambrone said he can get there faster on an ATV versus a bike.
Shouse said the Shakespeare District is looking at trying to get electric ATVS, which are better for the environment and have quieter engines.
David Altenberg, who lives near the Bloomingdale and Kedzie avenues ramp, told police, "As someone whose bedroom window is eye level to the trail, I'm happy to hear you are exploring alternative electric ATVS."
After the meeting, Altenberg said the sound of the ATV is noticeable, especially when his window is open.
"It's not too loud, but it's loud enough. It's always right around the time you are going to bed. I'd like to see [police using] more bikes, but I understand the trade-off and I am glad police are on [the trail]."
Altenberg said he and his wife frequently use The 606 for commuting and exercise and their five-year-old daughter is learning to ride a bike on the trail.
Some patterns shared by Henkels:
- The most number of incidents were between the 2500 to 3200 blocks of West Bloomingdale Avenue, on the western end of trail between Western and Kedzie avenues.
- In three robberies, a man came from behind on foot and grabbed victims by the neck, leading police to believe that it could be the same offender.
- In two batteries, the victims were both joggers "slapped from behind" by a man who quickly passed on a bike.
- In four of the 22 incidents, the offenders were on bicycles — one a motorized bike. In the other 18 reports, the offenders were on foot.
- In most cases, the crimes were committed a single person. The largest reported group of criminals was four.
Henkels encouraged users of the path to trust their instincts, even if it means changing their routine.
"You don't have to run that way if you see a group of people that are making your hair stick up [in fear]. Just run or bike the other way and call us ," Henkels said.
As for commuters who use the park after hours, Vivian Garcia, the Chicago Park District's manager for The 606, said that like all parks, it closes at 11 p.m.
"There is something in the [Park District] code that says if it's part of your route you can use it, but that's up to police discretion [on whether to enforce/write tickets]," Garcia said.
Garcia told residents that if they see graffiti, they should email her photos and location to firstname.lastname@example.org
Garcia said that landscaping crews will be working on the trail in the coming weeks and they need to use pick-up trucks and ATVs to haul equipment and materials, resulting in intermittent lane closures.