Thursday, April 23, 2015

FINALLY: Prolific CTA Pickpocket Chased Onto Tracks, Arrested

Green. (Cook Co. Sheriff's Dept)
Chicago police have arrested a prolific CTA pickpocket suspect who is believed to be responsible for a number of thefts from commuters since he got paroled last summer.

A CTA canine patrol officer at the Garfield Red Line station early Sunday recognized Matthew Green as being wanted for allegedly stealing a man's wallet on a CTA train by cutting the victim's pocket with a razor knife. Green, apparently realizing that he had been identified, fled onto the Red Line tracks, forcing the CTA to shut down power and service in the area, police said.

The security guard quickly caught up with the 58-year-old paroled thief and held him for police.

Bail is set at $250,000 for Green, who is now charged with three counts of theft and trespassing. The theft charges stem from three separate CTA incidents:
• Pickpocketing an Eastern University student at the Wilson Red Line station on April 5. 
• Pickpocketing a man on a Blue Line train near the Kedzie-Homan stop April 4.
• Stealing a Samsung Note 4 and a wallet from an Illinois Institute of Technology student at the Chinatown stop on March 28.
CTA images of a pickpocket in action on the Red Line in January.
The CTA issued an alert on January 24 to warn commuters of Red Line pickpocketing incidents. In that case, a pickpocket who boarded at the Wilson stop stole a woman's wallet as she prepared to exit a train at Chicago Avenue. Green has not been charged in that case.

However, CWB can now reveal that Green is the same man who police arrested in connection with a pickpocket incident at the Belmont station in November. As CWB reported then, police had to release him because the victim refused to press charges.

Green also made news for pickpocketing on the CTA in 2012.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

PRIDE: Against Expert Advice, Parade Returns To Boystown

The 2015 Chicago Pride Parade will be held in Boystown, not downtown, according to multiple city sources who spoke with CWB on the condition of anonymity this week. We first reported the development Tuesday morning.

How organizers will address concerns of overcrowding, brawls, medical response difficulties, and persistent post-parade crime remains to be seen.

But sources who spoke with CWB stated unequivocally that virtually every city department involved in the parade, including all emergency services, have expressed their beliefs that the parade should be moved to a more manageable location.

Of course, first responders don't make that decision. Politicians and the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events do.

As CWB reported on March 31, the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications cited fears of "terrorism" in denying a Freedom Of Information Act request seeking Pride-related documents. The Chicago Police Department is in violation of state law for failing to respond to a similar request. Both departments' handling of the document requests are under review by the Illinois Attorney General's Office.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation alone has seen its
Pride Parade expenses double in recent years. Parade organizers
paid a "city services" invoice of $20,000 in 2011; $35,000 in 2012;
and $40,000 in 2013 and 2014.
While those issues play out, CWB has secured hundreds of pages of Pride documents from city sources. While there are many interesting tidbits (yes, the alderman did order Streets & San to re-sweep Belmont in front of his restaurant one year), none seems more important now than a couple of documents with a boring title: "Parade Marshal Plan."

According to those documents, filed by parade leader Richard Pfeiffer each year with the city, organizers have actually reduced the number of safety marshals and monitors they've promised to provide in recent years. That's despite the fact that the parade has drawn increasingly large record-setting crowds each year.

Monitors And Marshals

Following crowd control concerns at the 2011 parade, organizers reduced
the number of marshals and monitors they promised to provide.
The Pride Parade's troubles began after large crowds packed Halsted Street to watch the event in 2011.  ABC7 reported
"…It was really bad, packed, too crowded," said Val Tompkins. "We couldn't see it, there were 10 rows of people." 
Tompkins and and Trisha George drove from Coldwater, Mich., to see the parade. They say..some areas were dangerous. 
"There were kids getting pushed," George said.
Things got really bad at Belmont and Halsted in 2011:
On the west side of Halsted, a crowd as thick as a block had been smashed into such a tight space between barricades that some people began to yell for help. Police pulled one woman out of the crowd at approximately 12:05 p.m. because she said she felt light-headed, while another woman screamed that she was having a panic attack from being trapped in the crowd.
Police did not confirm earlier reports that officers were injured in that crowd, despite repeated inquiries from Windy City Times.
Despite attempts by police to hold off crowds, the sheer number of people pushing from behind forced many to jump the fence barricades and stand along the parade route. Police continued to add barricades to create a divide between fence-jumpers and the parade itself, but eventually the crowd overtook the route, and officials with the Office of Emergency Management and Communications re-directed about 50 floats off the scheduled route, south on Clark toward Diversey.
After the dust settled in 2011, Pfeiffer told the Windy City Times that the parade had tripled the number of marshals leading up to 2011 and had "produced 120 marshals for this year's event." But Pfeiffer had assured the city that there would be 135 marshals that year to "urge spectators to stay behind the barricades" and to pace the parade. And those 120 marshals didn't appear to be enough, according to the Times:
One police sergeant, who wished to remain anonymous, said that where she was, there were no parade marshals or officials directing floats as they entered the parade.
Despite the crowding and safety concerns in 2011, the parade inexplicably slashed the number of parade marshals it promised in 2012 to "at least 60."  And only 60 marshals were promised again as the parade continued to grow in 2013. Information on the parade's 2014 marshaling plan was not provided to us.

The number of parade monitors—responsible for keeping parade entries moving and orderly—has also been reduced since 2011, according to Pfeiffer's letters to the city. After promising "at least six hundred fifty monitors" in 2011, the number of monitors promised has been reduced to 450.

Pfeiffer did not responded to an email last week in which we sought more information about the apparent reduction in resources.

"Losing It"

Organizers and the city responded to 2011's crushing crowds by changing the route in 2012, hoping that spectators would spread out.
"We are asking people to come to the beginning of the route [in Uptown]" said parade coordinator Richard Pfeiffer. "Halsted will be busy with the bars. Come to the first few blocks."
That has not happened as, predictably, people want to watch the parade in Boystown.

During the 2013 parade, observers in a Chicago police helicopter repeatedly warned resources on the ground that overwhelming crowds were about to break through the barricades at Addison and Halsted.

"It's bulging out. You might be losing it," the airborne officer said in a recording secured by CWB. The helicopter went on to warn of more potentially dangerous overcrowding along barricades at Roscoe and Halsted.

Ultimately, the police lines held.

The overhead cops became concerned about Boystown crowds last year, too:

"You got a problem at Halsted and Aldine. They're coming in off the side streets," the pilot says in audio reviewed by CWB "You got at least 100 people smashed in that area and they're still coming."

That crowd eventually swelled and crushed a Chicago police squad car. "Every [CTA] train brings another 100 people" to the Belmont station, the helicopter crew reported.

Thirty minutes later, CTA closed the Belmont terminal by police order—for the fourth year in a row.

What Can Ya Do?

Sources within Chicago's emergency services who've spoken with us about the parade are hardly surprised by the decision to ignore pleas to move the parade.

"What can ya do?" one source shrugged. "We can only do so much."
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

DEVELOPING: 2015 Pride Parade Will Stay In Boystown, City Sources Say

Multiple sources in city government are saying that the 2015 Pride Parade will remain in Boystown.

Late tonight on CWB: A look at what documents in city files say about previous parades.
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Sunday, April 19, 2015

WRONG WAY RAHM: Mayor's SUV Runs More Red Lights, Drives Wrong Way, City Cameras Show

Look out, peons! The mayor is coming through!
See the video here. 
(Image: City of Chicago)
"The politics is funny, the safety issue is not," says former 44th ward aldermanic candidate Scott Davis, summing up the latest and most brazen red light violations by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

New video secured by CWB shows one of the mayor's police-driven SUVs blatantly running red lights at two busy intersections last month—even going so far as to drive the wrong way into oncoming Cicero Avenue traffic.

When we reported on a rash of mayoral red light violations last winter, Emanuel blamed the second vehicle of his two-car motorcade: "When there is a tail car," Emanuel said, "there are some instances where they need to get through the light, because they can't get separated from first car, that may be what it is.

But in both of these newly-secured videos, there is no tail car. There's only one car—and the violations are among the most flagrant we've seen.

In the first violation, seen HERE, the car assigned to Emanuel is exiting southbound Lake Shore Drive at Belmont into an intersection brimming with bicyclists and pedestrians who were enjoying the beautiful weather on the afternoon of Saturday, March 14.

Our mayor, always concerned about safety at intersections, runs
 a red light into the wrong lanes of Cicero Avenue.
Video HERE.
Disregarding a group of citizens waiting to cross the street and two bicyclists in the next lane, Rahm's car zips through the light to make a speedy left turn.

The Belmont/LSD red light camera system is the most lucrative in the city, spitting out $813,600 worth of tickets in the second half of 2014 alone.

Davis, who recently ran for 44th Ward Alderman on an anti-red light platform, says these new violations are different.

"Previous reports of Mayor Emanuel's motorcade running red lights were amusing due to the irony of the Mayor's 'for the safety of our children' justifications" for photo enforcement, "this latest incident indicates a disturbing pattern of recklessness on the part of the mayor's motorcade."

30 minutes after a car assigned to the mayor ran a  red light and drove
the wrong way on Cicero Avenue, Emanuel  Tweeted this photo of his re-election 
efforts in the  nearby 29th ward . (@rahmemanuel)
Exactly one week after the Belmont violation, Rahm's car was caught again—at Cicero and Washington. Check out the video. This time, his lone car has its police lights illuminated as it crosses an already-red signal and then drives the wrong way for a full block into oncoming Cicero Avenue traffic.

According to Emanuel's Twitter feed, the mayor was on the West Side that morning to canvass the 29th Ward for votes.

"Mayor Emanuel should take action to correct this pattern of running red lights before someone is critically injured," Davis said.

After the mayor's two-car motorcade was first found to be running red lights by ABC7 reporter Ben Bradley last year, Emanuel told the press his drivers had been instructed that, "No one is above the law. Obey the law. Period. Full stop."

As of Sunday afternoon, neither of Emanuel's latest $100 violations had been paid.

In the wake of the last batch of Emanuel violations, 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney suggested that the city should look at red light standards and countdown clocks at intersections. Nothing has yet become of that election season idea.
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MUST BE THE SHOES: Walgreens Robbed By Man Armed With Hunting Knife; Shoplifters Get $1.2K At American Apparel

Police say a man entered the Walgreens at Belmont and Sheffield shortly before 10PM Friday, pulled out a hunting knife, and demanded cash from the register. He was last seen running eastbound on Belmont with about $300 of the store’s money.

Officers built a description of the offender after speaking with witnesses and reviewing surveillance video: He’s a black man with a teardrop tattoo on his right eye, 5’5” tall with a muscular build and a short haircut. He wore a plain red hoodie, light blue jeans, and $170 white and black patent leather Air Jordans. (CPD case HY226165.)

Also On Helmont

Earlier Friday evening, a crew of shoplifters stole an estimated $1,200 worth of merchandise in a raid on the nearby American Apparel store at 929 Belmont.

Store employees told police that three black male offenders fled the store and jumped into a red Volvo bearing an Illinois plate that begins with E25 or E52. They were last seen speeding eastbound on Belmont around 6:05PM.
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WORTH IT?: Boystown Robbery Brings 2-Year Sentence

Pineda (Ill Dept. Of Corrections)
One of two men charged with robbing a Boystown woman on March 11 pleaded guilty to aggravated battery in the case this week.

Abel Pineda, 31, reported to Stateville on Thursday to begin serving his 2-year sentence.

Pineda's co-defendant, Maciej Sas, still faces robbery, aggravated battery, and unlawful restraint charges in connection with the incident in which Sas allegedly ordered a woman in the 700 block of Aldine to "give me your shit nigga" before elbowing the victim in her stomach and wrestling away her cell phone.

Sas is due back in court on May 5.
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BLOWIN' IT: Teen Who Robbed Rahm's Son Now Facing Crack Distribution Charges

Payne (Cook Co. Sheriff's Dept)
Phillip Payne, the Uptown teenager who recently pleaded guilty to robbing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's son, has been arrested again—his second arrest since turning 18 on January 30th.

Payne is charged with possessing 15 grams of suspected crack cocaine with intent to deliver and criminal trespass to state-supported land after police say they found him with bags of drugs in an Uptown Chicago Housing Authority building on Easter Sunday. He’s free on $10,000 bond.

Cops were following up on an April 5 CHA complaint of "non-residents trespassing" in an apartment at 1265 W. Leland when they allegedly found Payne seated on a couch next to a table where "several small blue baggies and a clear plastic bag containing a white substance” were laid out. While other "non-residents" fled the scene upon the officers’ arrival, Payne allegedly threw a bag containing a white substance out of the apartment window.

Last December, Zach Emanuel told police that he had been beaten and robbed by two men as he had a phone conversation with his college counselor at 10PM on a Friday night near the family home. Payne, who was 17 at the time, pleaded guilty to the crime in juvenile court on March 9. No one else has been charged in the attack.

Payne was also arrested on February 6 after he allegedly provided a fake name to officers who stopped him for investigation in Uptown. Prosecutors dropped the charge of obstructing identification four days before Payne was arrested on the crack charges.
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Saturday, April 18, 2015

BETTER THAN HE FOUND IT: With Major Repairs Made, Local Commander Leaves For New Assignment

Commander Elias Voulgaris speaks to an October 2013
CAPS meeting. Image: DNAInfo Chicago
19th district Chicago Police Cmdr. Elias Voulgaris received a new assignment Friday as the department announced a series of executive-level changes.

CWB first reported the changes Saturday evening on our Twitter feed.

Voulgaris’ candor, accessibility, and sense of personal responsibility were a refreshing change for local residents who had seen a series of short-term, party-line commanders come and go in the years before his arrival.

Voulgaris took steps to correct long-neglected problems that fueled a years-long spike in violent street crime around Wrigleyville and Boystown.

By the time Voulgaris arrived in October 2012, manpower on the overnight shift in our nightlife-heavy district had atrophied to dangerously-low levels. He navigated the police department’s bureaucracy and gradually brought the midnight shift up to full strength in 2014.

While the district’s overall manpower now sits at a record low, the critical overnight shift is fully staffed.

Voulgaris also took on the neighborhood’s long-neglected robbery problem. After three consecutive years of record-high robbery rates in Wrigleyville and Boystown, muggings and hold-ups plunged 34% last year. They’re down another 10% this year.

But this was not love at first sight. Far from it. Voulgaris' early approaches to community problems sounded a lot like the previous commanders'. Talk of “perception” and the cult-like recitation of “crime is down.”

We criticized him. A lot. We said that he “blatantly lied” on camera when ABC7 reported on Boystown’s dirty little robbery secret in August 2013. “Frankly, commander, you are full of shit,” we wrote, “your lies will continue to cause people to get hurt.”

By fall, change was in the air, with Voulgaris telling a boisterous CAPS meeting that he would no longer make statistics the focus of our neighborhood meetings. "No one believes the stats."

He called on service agencies to step up to their responsibilities.

But, most importantly, he went a long, long way toward fixing serious problems that a series of previous “leaders” claimed did not exist.

So, we start anew.

Monday, Voulgaris will report as commander of the department’s Bureau of Patrol and Capt. Robert Cesario of the detective division will arrive as acting commander in Town Hall.

Cesario walks into a bit of a pickle, having to decide where to put the dwindling police force that he will command. Should he put them around the Major League Baseball stadium, nightlife robbery zone, and L stations?  Helmont maybe? How about the Uptown "Gang Conflict Zone"—yes, Uptown readers, that's what the department calls your hood—where homicides and shootings are popping at a record pace?  Such is life in an undermanned police department that can no longer handle two challenges at once.

Talking with a couple of cops last night, both said Cesario's good and solid. We hope so. We’d like to believe that this neighborhood has moved beyond the company line.
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Friday, April 17, 2015

PROWLERS: Break-In Reports Continue In Area

Burglars continue to enjoy the fruits of local residents' labor. Here are the latest reported break-ins:

April 15: 1100 block of Patterson. Resident told officers that an unknown offender cut a screen in his bedroom window, entered his residence, and took a Macbook and watch. His neighbor reported a similar break-in.

April 14: 3500 block of Broadway. The main entry to a residential building was popped open with a crowbar overnight and one resident's bike was taken.

  • April 3, 3600 block of Fremont.
  • April 4, 3600 block of Lake Shore Drive
  • April 8, 3800 block of Broadway
  • April 9, 800 block of Aldine

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ALERT: Cops Warn Of Robberies At Wrigleyville ATMs

Chicago police have identified a robbery pattern in which victims have been forced to withdraw money from Wrigleyville ATMs by men who displayed or implied that they had a firearm.

In the first incident, two men approached a victim near Addison and Racine around 3:10AM on April 5th and demanded cash. (CWB's original report is here.)

Then, at 3:20AM on April 12th, an offender displayed a handgun and forced a victim to withdraw cash from an ATM in the 3500 block of Clark Street. (CWB's original report is here.)

In the Racine incident, both offenders are described as black men between 20 and 30 years of age. One of them was about 5'10" tall, 145 pounds, with short hair. He wore a black beanie had with a red stripe. Both men fled in a black car.

The gunman on Clark Street is described as a black man between 18 and 25 years of age, 6' tall, 160 pounds, short air, wearing a black sweatshirt with white stripes or lettering, and black jeans.

If you have information about these incidents, Area North Detectives would love to hear from you at 312.744.8263. Refer to pattern P14-N-090.
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