Concerns raised on need for more police in 16th (Jefferson Park) District, although Area Five safety team is providing assistance several nights a week following complaints from residents
by BRIAN NADIG
The 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District on some nights has been receiving additional personnel who have assisted in the arrests of burglary and theft suspects, but the district still needs more help, according to recently retired district lieutenant John Garrido.
“We’re down 100 officers in this district (from 20 years ago),” Garrido said at the Dec. 19 public safety seminar hosted by Alderman James Gardiner (45th) at Saint Robert Bellarmine Church, 4646 N. Austin Ave. In the early 2000s, the 16th District had about 270 officers, not including supervisors.
In recent weeks Garrido has been on television, radio and social media discussing the need for more officers in the district, arguing that an insufficient number of beat cars on the street hurts the deterrent effect of criminals seeing police and going elsewhere. Property crimes, including catalytic converter thefts and car thefts, are up about as much as 60 percent in some categories this year compared to 2021.
Garrido has posted on Facebook documents showing that on recent nights some beats have had no beat cars and others have had one squad car with one officer.
Chicago Police Department policy requires two officers to respond to domestic-related calls and anytime there could still be an offender at a crime scene. That can result in one-officer cars from separate beats responding to the same call, Garrido said.
“Two of the last four Saturdays my beat has not been covered,” resident Mitch Kmiec said at the meeting.
“It makes us vulnerable,” Garrido said.
Garrido said that it is his understanding Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s security teams consist of more than 100 assigned officers and supervisors, about five times more than the details that former mayors Rahm Emanuel and Richard M. Daley had. The figure reflects the total number of officers spread out over multiple shifts during the week, he said.
Garrido claims that there are often more officers on the street protecting the mayor than the entire 16th District, which measures about 30 square miles.
According to district officials, the Area Five Community Safety Team has been assigned to the 16th District several nights a week this month. The team reportedly brings about six to 10 officers to the district.
Garrido said that the additional officers are the direct result of residents calling and e-mailing Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown’s office, demanding more resources for the 16th District.
Gardiner said that he and the other seven aldermen whose wards include the 16th District have been consistent in demanding more officers. “The manpower in the 16th and other districts is not up to what we all want,” Gardiner said.
District captain Mike Barz told residents that the district has been changing the schedule of its tactical officers so that they are working more hours at night, when most of the property crimes are occurring.
Tactical officers also have been assigned to ride the el trains in a effort to improve security on the city’s mass transportation system, Barz said.
District tactical lieutenant Terry Forbes said that property crimes are a regional problem and that many of the theft crews are working both the city and suburbs, jumping from one community to the next, sometimes on the same night. “They see us and flee to the next one,” Forbes said.
Forbes added, “A lot of the cars stolen within our area are recovered on the South and West sides.”