I-Team: Boystown robberies prompt new police tactics

August 19, 2013 (CHICAGO)

DOCUMENT: Statement from Broadway Youth Center/Howard Brown Health Center

Some residents complain that social service agencies are attracting people who come to the North Side neighborhood to cause problems.

Boystown is known for its tolerance. But many residents say they will not tolerate being No. 1 when it comes to robberies in Chicago.

Police say overall crime is down in the city's most congested entertainment district.

Sires are familiar sounds in this neighborhood.

Most summer nights, Boystown is packed with people from all over the city.

But not everyone is happy about what they see when people leave the bars and social service centers in the area.

"This is an easy place to headquarter themselves and cause trouble," an area resident said.

Residents vented at a recent CAPS community meeting. Upset about the number of robberies in the Boystown neighborhood...72 so far this year. Many are highlighted on a popular blog, Crime in Boystown, that posts a daily ticker of criminal activity.

"Frankly individuals are robbed walking through alleys, not paying attention to their surroundings," said CPD Commander Elias Voulgaris.

Boystown is in police beat 1924. It's the most populated and congested beat in the city. It also ranks first in the city for robberies during the last 90 days. Some residents say they believe part of the problem is the high number of social service agencies located in a small area.

"Large groups of kids that are clearly not here to take advantage of the businesses or of the night life," said resident Craig Nolden.

The I-Team spoke to the agencies. Some provide shelter to homeless youth. Others offer a variety of health and drug addiction services to the gay community. All say they are working with residents and police to be better neighbors.

"Center on Halsted is the Midwest's largest, most comprehensive community center and we're a social service agency that serve all LGBTQ people in Chicago," said Center on Halsted's Tom Elliott.

Security officers patrol the lobby and the perimeter of the building during peak hours.

"I can confidently say the individuals that are committing crimes in the area are not coming here for our services," Elliott said.

"Anyone that's being a bad neighbor, for profit or not for profit is going to get the ire of the community," said 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney.

Residents are also complaining about slow response times and say there are not enough officers to respond to all of the calls.

Nolden says he called 911 twice in recent months and says both times waited 15 minutes for police to arrive.

"They were very apologetic for showing up late, that due to staffing issues this kind of fell low on the priority list," Nolden said.

Former Chicago police officer Rick Sherman says he has seen officers on every corner of the Magnificent Mile but not in Boystown.

"They are putting the lives of these officers at risk by having these streets understaffed," Sherman said.

"Sometimes on Fridays and Saturday nights I wish I had a 100 officers out there," said Voulgaris.

The commander's plan: More officers will be saturated in the neighborhood on weekends and administrative officers are being re-deployed to work midnight shifts. Others will be reassigned to walk the area every day during the busiest hours.

"We're going to hit it when people don't expect us to be out here," he said.

Police say most of the robberies happen between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. There is no indication any specific group is being targeted.

Advice from officers: Do not walk alone after dark and keep your smart phone out of sight.

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