South Loop crime causes concern
July 4, 2013

By Dolly Duplantier

Car vandals and iPhone thieves have plagued the South Loop recently. In May, vandals smashed front passenger windows on approximately seven cars at Dearborn Village at 18th, Clark, and State Streets. Brian McCrea, a resident of the complex, said criminals rifled through eight cars, as one of the cars was unlocked.

Vandals also hit two parking areas in the gated community across the street from the Chicago Police Department (CPD) 1st District Police station. McCrea said the thieves took almost nothing, but he believes they could have been looking for garage door openers.

“The glove boxes were open, and stuff was tossed around,” he said. Earlier, vandals struck approximately 20 cars on the 1300 block of South Wabash.

“I’ve been in contact with the residents at Dearborn Village,” said Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd Ward). “We have been working with the 1st District police station. Email alerts were issued to let people know. Sometimes people keep their garage remotes in their car, and this is sometimes done to access the homes. We’ve encouraged residents to create phone trees, talk to one another if out of town, and to keep an eye out on each other’s homes.”

CPD advises residents to minimize the potential for car theft by parking in well lighted areas, always locking car doors, and making sure to close windows tightly. Never leave a spare set of keys or garage door openers in the vehicle and always keep all valuables and packages out of sight. Anything of value attracts thieves, including CD players, cell phones, briefcases, computers, spare change, and clothing. The police department warns that thieves will break a $100 window to steal a $10 pair of sunglasses.

Recent iPhone thefts

Other recent incidents involve iPhone thefts. Three young men robbed a Columbia College student near his dorm on south Clark Street on May 14 at about 8 p.m. The group shoved the student into an alley near Harrison Street, hit him, and took his iPhone and backpack but not his wallet. He pursued one of the perpetrators and retrieved his backpack. A Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus driver stopped to help and call police, but officers have not caught the offenders yet.

Cell phone users are vulnerable to thefts in the downtown area. Many victims are texting while walking and not paying attention to their surroundings. “We always encourage residents and visitors to be aware of surroundings and to report suspicious or criminal activity immediately,” said Sergeant Antoinette Ursitti from the CPD Office of News Affairs.

“We never encourage anyone to take enforcement action and to instead stay on the scene and provide information to police.”

CPD recommends keeping all electronics out of sight in public, especially on CTA trains and buses.
Police reports for South Loop and Near South Beats 131 and 132 show theft, criminal damage, and battery as the area’s most common crimes. From April 16 through May 20, citizens reported approximately 46 thefts, 21 cases of criminal damage, and 20 instances of battery. All three categories came in lower than in the previous reporting period.

“I have been a proponent of more police in the area on bike, foot, and cars,” said Alderman Robert Fioretti (2nd Ward). Bolstering Fioretti’s view is an incident on May 24, in which shots were fired around 11 a.m. near the bus stop and Chicago Transit Authority Red Line station at State Street and Roosevelt Road. Two men received slight gunshot wounds. The investigation remains open and ongoing. However, since the incident there has been a stronger police presence in the area.

“The Chicago Police Department is committed to lowering and preventing crime through intelligent policing and fostering close partnerships with communities, organizations, clergy, and residents throughout the city,” said Ursitti. “The results of these efforts are demonstrated in crime drops demonstrated citywide and in individual districts.”

According to Ursitti, a two-year analysis of crime in the 1st District between Jan. 1 and May 19 revealed overall crime dropped 6%. This includes drops in criminal sexual assaults (25%), robberies (2%), aggravated battery (3%), felony theft (10%), and motor vehicle (23%). The trend continued in the one-year analysis of crime data, where criminal sexual assaults dropped by 40%, aggravated batteries dropped by 14%, and burglaries dropped by 7%.

Community policing

“Community policing initiatives have played a significant role in engaging community members,” said Ursitti. “Beat meetings continue to serve as a forum for community concerns, and officers have demonstrated a concerted effort in responding to community needs, including enhanced patrol by beat officers and bicycle officers. A community walk-and-talk and the formation of a community phone tree on Beat 131 highlight the community initiative and involvement that are crucial to supporting the public safety efforts of police.”

A serious crime earlier this year reinforces the importance of community members’ support: an isolated incident of a criminal sexual assault and robbery occurred on Jan. 9 on the 1400 block of south Clark St. “The diligent work of Area Central Detectives led to felony charges against the 19-year-old offender, Deontae Latham of Rockford, Illinois, who was charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault, home invasion, and two counts of armed robbery on March 25,” said Ursitti.

“People need to go to C.A.P.S. (Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy) meetings to understand what’s going on,” said Jeannette Johnson, vice president of the Greater South Loop Association.

“Residents need to belong to their neighborhood watch groups whether it’s a condo association or a building group.”

For more information regarding crime in the area and safety tips, visit the police department’s CLEARpath website, Sign up for e-mail alerts online or call the 1st District CAPS office at (312) 745-4381.