Police promise more patrols after Wrigleyville armed robberies, but not clear how many cops will be deployed

Lake View business leaders were promised more police officers during a meeting Thursday afternoon about a string of armed robberies just south of Wrigley Field over the weekend.

But it was unclear how many officers will be deployed and for how long. The offer falls short of a special "entertainment district patrol" for bar hot spots that some had sought to combat rising crime, which is 66% higher than a year ago.

"If we had dedicated patrols in the district … then we would be able to make that stat go down," said Maureen Martino, who is executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce and attended the meeting with police officials.

"There should be a team dedicated to this district, in the area of the entertainment districts for Halsted and Clark streets," she said.

Crime in Wrigleyville has come under the spotlight after five attacks in the early morning hours of Saturday and Sunday. Armed robbers grabbed people off the street on Clark and Addison, forced them into cars, stole their phones and wallets and then let them go, according to police. No injuries have been reported.

Martino and other business leaders met with police officials in the Town Hall District on Monday to voice their concerns and renew past calls for more officers. Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) left one of the meetings complaining that the police district has been short on officers for at least four years.

The Town Hall District currently has 287 sworn officers. That’s down from 416 officers just a few months after Mayor Lori Lightfoot took office.

On Thursday, according to Martino and Tunney, police officials indicated the extra officers would stay in the district at least through Halloween and possibly through the end of the year. Neither Martino nor Tunney’s office had any details of the deployment, and the department later issued a statement that appeared to dampen their expectations.

"The 19th (Town Hall) District commander requested additional resources and has received a community safety team every day since we first learned of the pattern," the department said. "The commander has adjusted some in-house resources on specific missions to combat this pattern.

"As far as Halloween, the Haunted Halsted Halloween Parade and the Halloween Bar Crawl, we have requested additional resources, as we always do for big events," it added.


Still, Martino appeared encouraged by Thursday’s meeting with the commander.

"There’ll be sergeants and regular police officers out there," she said. "We’re hoping we can get them on a consistent schedule and that we can have headquarters acknowledge the fact we need to keep our patrols here in our district."

According to Chicago police data, reports of robbery in the Town Hall District are up 48% from a year ago and aggravated battery is up 17%. Overall crime in the district, which covers Lake View, Lincoln Park and North Center, has increased 66%, according to the data.

The Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce recently voted to increase its budget for private security because of the rising crime, making foot and car patrols year-round in the North Side neighborhood.

The chamber has employed private security in the Lake View area for roughly a decade and is currently using the firm Protexa. This year, the chamber moved to increase its annual security budget from $160,000 to $220,000 to cover the year-round services. In the past, the chamber had employed security from St. Patricks Day through the winter holidays.

Martino noted that the private guards called police for one of the armed robbery victims last weekend and waited with the person until officers arrived. But she said private security can only do so much without an dedicated patrol that could quickly respond to crime patterns.

In the past year, other predominately wealthy neighborhoods have moved to hire their own security, as have groups within the Lakeview neighborhood, such as Center on Halsted.

In 2019, activists called out the center — the city’s largest LGBTQ community center — for working with a private security firm owned by a Chicago police officer who admitted using a racial slur during a disturbance in 2013 at a Boystown bar.

Walsh Security is owned by Town Hall District police Officer Thomas Walsh, who was accused of attacking a Black security guard and repeatedly using a racial slur while off-duty at the Lucky Horseshoe Lounge in Boystown, records from the city’s former Independent Police Review Authority show.