CHICAGO — Local aldermen say two robberies reported in Streeterville overnight are just the latest in a spike in crime there, as they call on police to increase their presence in the downtown neighborhood.
Chicago police issued a community alert over the weekend, warning of multiple incidents in the Streeterville area where people were being robbed of their cellphones and purses. The two alderman who represent the region say they need more beat cops and more cooperation between CPD and Northwestern University Police.
"We are seeing an overall increase in the number of street crimes, the number of armed robberies, snatch and grabs, and violent encounters in retail stores along Michigan avenue; all these things are happening at an alarming rate," Alderman Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) said.
A 54-year-old woman told police she was walking near St. Clair Street and Superior Avenue just after midnight Tuesday when she was pushed from behind and knocked to the ground by a man, while a second person grabbed her purse. After a struggle over the purse, which held her wallet and cell phone, the woman says her attackers got away with it and escaped in a black SUV waiting nearby.
About four hours later, a 28-year-old Northwestern student was walking about a block away on the 300 block of Chicago Avenue, near the university’s law school, when he says he was attacked. The man said he was wearing headphones and watching a movie on an iPad when a silver sedan pulled up and three men got out, attacked him, and hit him in the face before escaping with the iPad.
Hopkins said the timespan and vehicles suggest the two incidents were not connected.
The most recent CPD CompStat report from the area covering Streeterville shows robberies are down two percent from this time last year, but are up 108 percent since 2015. Aggravated batteries are up 38 percent from last year, and up an alarming 262 percent since 2015. Thefts are also up five percent from last year, and 55 percent overall since 2015.
"Somebody once asked John Dillinger why do you rob banks, it’s where the money is," Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) said. "There’s just a lot more people down here with wallets and valuables, it's just a high concentration of people."
Last year, Reilly used a half million dollars from his aldermanic menu fund to install new high definition cameras in the area.
"Some of those cameras were instrumental in helping the detectives track the movements of the two men who attacked Jessie Smollett, these are excellent state-of-the-art cameras, all of those tools help with public safety," Reilly said.
Hopkins says police were able to find good surveillance video of the attacks and he’s confident an arrest will be made within the next week.
In the meantime, both aldermen say people need to be more vigilant, and as Reilly put it, remember the cellphone you’re carrying in your hand is like a stack of hundred dollar bills to a thief.