LINCOLN SQUARE — A spike in robberies and burglaries has Lincoln Square neighbors on edge, prompting renewed calls for more police in the area.
The sense that criminals are, in the words of one speaker, "running amok" in the area had many of those in attendance questioning the perceived absence of police presence and complaining about response times.
How many cars are patrolling each beat? neighbors asked.
CAPS Sgt. Kelly Sims responded that one car is assigned to each of the Town Hall Police District's 14 beats, with tactical units, robbery units and burglary units deployed as well.
"I am appalled by the fact there's only one car," said longtime resident Lynda Csernovicz. "We need more good, trained police officers."
But of a recent group of 100 recruits, none were assigned to the Town Hall District, Sims said.
"We have no control over how many police are assigned to the district," added CAPS officer Mary Hein.
The lack of manpower has been a persistent issue since 2011, when the Chicago Police Department merged the former 19th and 23rd police districts into a single district that stretches from Lake Michigan to the Chicago River and Fullerton Avenue on the south to Lawrence Avenue on the north.
Though neighbors acknowledged that crime in the area is low compared with other parts of the city, the question remains: How quickly can officers at Clark Street and Diversey Avenue respond to a 911 call at Western Avenue and Leland Avenue?
"Five years ago, I felt safer," Csernovicz said. "I have friends that are terrified [to visit]. They say, 'I'm never coming to Chicago.' That makes me cry."
Officers stressed ways neighbors can protect themselves against crime and shared tips on how to be smarter when reporting crimes.
• Call 911. While not always possible, particularly in the case of phone theft, prompt calls to 911 can help police identify patterns and strings of crimes in real-time and respond while a suspect is still in the area. "Call 911 so we know what we're looking for," Sims said.
• If officers aren't responding, call back. And keep in mind that choice of words matters. A report of "there's a guy banging on my door" is considered a "noise disturbance" whereas a report of "there's a guy breaking down my door" is a crime in progress and will prompt an urgent response. If a situation seems likely to escalate, stay on the line with the 911 operator, officers said.
• Photos and videos are incredibly helpful. Police now have access to facial recognition technology and have made a number of arrests with images provided by victims and surveillance footage.
• Lock doors and windows. The vast majority of burglaries in the area are via "unlawful" versus "forcible" entry, meaning the thief entered a home or garage through an unlocked door or window.