CHICAGO — A rash of carjackings in Bucktown and Wicker Park has residents on edge and officials searching for solutions.
Between Sept. 13 and 20, there were eight carjackings in the area — with four taking place in just one night.
On the night of Sept. 13, police said the suspects displayed a black handgun and ordered the victims out of their vehicles while demanding PIN numbers to debit cards and cell phones.
On Tuesday night, frustrated residents gathered in Churchill Park for a 14th District community meeting on how to stop the carjackings.
Steve Jensen, of the Bucktown Community Organization, said there’s a growing consensus among residents that the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office is being too lenient on offenders.
“The police are doing their jobs, the citizens are doing their jobs, but these 15-year-old violent criminals are habitually being let go,” Jensen said. “Doing a carjacking is an adult-level crime that does not have adult level consequences, and that needs to change.”
It was a sentiment echoed by 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack.
“They are very brazen,” said Waguespack said. “Some of them aren’t getting charged in the way that we want them to be.”
Police on the city’s vehicular hijacking unit noted that investigators are using technology like license plate readers to track criminals — but they said the best way to ensure convictions is for victims and witnesses to identify the suspects.
“I understand some of the frustration is felony versus misdemeanor, that all comes from witness identification,” said Lt. Thomas Keene. “What that person’s role in the crime was and who can identify them. Can the witness identify them, can the victim identify them?”
Some residents after the meeting said they’re fed up with political speeches and now want to see some prosecutions.
“I think it was just the same old same old, and again, I was looking for more specific of what we as a community can do to really impact change, and it felt a little bit like lip service,” said Carol Dorf.
At the end of the meeting, police handed out flyers to give common sense tips to residents on how to avoid being a carjacking victim. Anyone with information on any carjacking can leave an anonymous tip at cpdtip.com.