Thursday, February 26, 2015

PROBATION CITY: Catalytic Converter Thieves Plead Guilty, Get Unsupervised Release

L to R: Williamson, Perry
Two of the five men who were charged in connection with the theft of 24 catalytic converters last month have reached plea deals.

Mychael Williamson, 18, and Angelo Perry, 22, each pleaded guilty to one count of theft of lost or mislaid property on Monday. Both were sentenced to one year of conditional discharge, which is essentially unsupervised probation.

Three other men are due back in court next month on similar charges.

The five, all members of the Traveling Vice Lords street gang according to police, were arrested after their van crashed near Addison and Lincoln early on January 6. Police say they found 24 stolen catalytic converters and a saw in the vehicle.

A Second Chance

Meanwhile, a woman who was charge with theft after allegedly breaking into a car near Wilton and Belmont—only to be found with her cell phone inexplicably operating in Japanese language mode—has pleaded guilty to attempted theft.

Nefertiti Ruffin-Hall, 21, received two years of "second chance probation." Charges were dropped against her alleged companion, Learthur Brooks.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"CONFIDENTIAL CRIMES": Robbery Of Mayor's Son Was One Of 178 Specially-Flagged Incidents Since 2007, City Exec Says

The December beating and robbery of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's son was tagged "confidential" by the city, which prevented the incident from appearing in the city's vaunted crime "transparency" site. That's the word from Tom Schenk Jr, the city's chief data officer.

CWB reported exclusively last week that the Emanuel robbery had gone missing from the city's public Data Portal, even though the web site is a cornerstone of the city's crime transparency efforts.

A total of 178 crimes were deemed "confidential" over the past eight years, Schenk said, adding that all of the crimes are now included in the Data Portal. Schenk had previously stated that 115 crimes were affected. The specially-categorized crimes should have been listed all along, he said.

Schenk spoke to open data enthusiasts Tuesday evening at Open Gov Hack Night in the Merchandise Mart.

Confidential Crimes?

Many questions beg to be asked and answered:

  • What exactly are the other 177 crimes that the city deemed to be "confidential" matters? 
  • What qualifies a crime for "confidential" status?
  • Why is there a need for "confidential" crimes? What does that status mean?
  • Are there other categories of crimes that affect the Data Portal's accuracy and government transparency?

More than 2.8 million crimes have been reported in Chicago over the past eight years, according to the Data Portal, making those 178 "confidential" matters very rare birds.

Schenk did not responded to a Tuesday afternoon email inquiry about the missing crimes, nor has he responded to a tagged Tweet from this weekend in which we sought more general information. And, the Chicago Data Portal's Tumblr moderators have not responded our "Ask Me Anything" submission.

We're looking forward to getting detailed information for you. In the interest of transparency, of course.
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Sunday, February 22, 2015

ALERT: Gunman Targeting Local Businesses, Cops Say

Chicago police have just issued a community alert warning the public about a man who has robbed two businesses at gunpoint in our area. Both crimes were first reported here on CWB.

The man is wanted for robbing Plato's Closet resale shop at Broadway and Diversey over the weekend as well as robbing a FedEx store near Fullerton and Halsted on January 9.

In both cases, the man entered, produced a small revolver, and demanded cash.

FedEx witnesses described the man as black, 45- to 50-years-old, wearing a red and gray plaid trapper style winter hat, a black jacket, partially faded blue jeans, and white gym shoes.

Surveillance footage of Saturday's robbery on Broadway show the man to be black, 40 to 45 years old, 5'10" tall, 150 pounds, wearing a tan trapper style hat, a black trench coat over a gray hoodie, blue jeans, and white gym shoes.

Detectives are asking anyone with information to contact them at 312.744.8263 and refer to Pattern P15-N-054(BA).
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AGAINST ALL ODDS: Missing Emanuel Robbery "Fixed"; City Says Data Issue Affected .004015070129% Of Crimes

Two days after CWB revealed that the robbery of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s own son did not appear on the city’s lauded crime statistics “transparency” site, the city “fixed” it.

In a lonely Tweet Friday afternoon, Chicago Chief Data Officer Tom Schenk Jr wrote “We ID’d the issue and fixed it. It’s now online with about 115 omitted in the past 8 years.”

As Scooby-Doo would say: "WWWWahhhuuuuuh?”

The Emanuel report is affected by a 1-in-25,0000 long shot and the explanation is "fixed it!"?

That’s it? For now, yes. There is no information about the “fix” on the Chicago Data Portal blog that is supposed to provide “updates on...  occasional issue[s] with specific datasets.”

And Schenk has not responded to a Tweet in which we invited him to contact us via email.

But, Schenk is reportedly scheduled to appear Tuesday evening at “Open Gov Hack Night” to offer more information.

We’re going to send a cub reporter, armed with Javascript For Dummies and a bottle of Fireball. Stay tuned.
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HAND IN POCKET: At Least 2 Targeted Here By CTA Pickpockets

At least two victims reported being pickpocketed on the CTA or CTA property in our area last week:

• A #22 Clark bus passenger reported being victimized as they stepped off the southbound bus at Belmont around 5:30PM last Monday. The offenders were described as a male and female couple: The male is black with a grayish goatee, about 6-feet tall, 170 pounds, wearing a black jacket, and black pants. His partner is a woman, black, wearing a black North Face brand jacket.

• On Wednesday, another victim flagged down police around 6:40PM at the Belmont CTA station to report being pick pocketed. No offender description was offered.

Photos of an alleged Red Line train pickpocket in action last month.
(Chicago Police Department)
The CTA has issued two alerts about North Side pickpockets since late November.

The agency issued a series of pictures with its most recent alert on January 24. The photo series showed a pickpocket in action on a southbound Red Line train.

And a late November police alert warned of pickpockets working as a team across several North Side stations. As CWB reported then, police strongly believe that they had one of the suspects in custody before the alert was issued. They had to let him go because a victim refused to file charges. Court records showed that the suspect, a career pickpocket, remained at large as of Friday.

Uninvited Burglar

A Lincoln Park woman reported seeing an unknown man in her apartment last Monday, then discovered that he had taken her cell phone and credit cards during the visit. Police say the man entered the apartment in the 1000 block of Montana around 11:45AM, “smelling like booze,” and then fled upon being discovered. Offender description: male, black, about 18-years-old, glasses, short hair, black jacket, light jeans, carrying a backpack.

Also on last week’s burglary list: 3600 block of Fremont. No force was used to enter the apartment.
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BRAZEN: Clothing Store Robbed At Gunpoint Saturday Morning

Surveillance photo of the suspect robbing Plato's Closet on Saturday.
(Chicago Police Department)
UPDATE 9:09PM: Police have issued a community alert regarding this crime. Our original report follows, with surveillance photo added.
The hustle and bustle of a major 3-way intersection did not dissuade a man from robbing a Lake View clothing store at gunpoint in broad daylight yesterday.

Police were called to Plato's Closet, 2817 Broadway, just after 10:30AM by the store clerk who said a man pointed a small black revolver at her and took about $900 from the store's cash register.

An unusually-robust police search of the area around the Broadway-Clark-Diversey intersection failed to locate the offender.

The suspect is described as an "older" black man between 5'10" and 6-feet tall, with a thin mustache, a "flat nose," and average build. He was reportedly wearing a tan and cream-colored "Elmer Fudd hat" with a dark wool trench coat, jeans, and white gym shoes. He was last seen walking southbound on Broadway toward Diversey.

CPD robbery case #HY158794.

Wrigleyville Mugging

Police met with a strong arm robbery victim who called for help from the Taco Bell across from Wrigley Field around 2:30 Saturday morning. Details on the robbery are sketchy, but the man told officers that he was robbed of his iPhone and wallet by two men in their early 20's. He described the muggers as black, about 5'7" tall, wearing dark hoodies. Case number TBD.
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Friday, February 20, 2015

ENCORE PERFORMANCES: Man's Been Arrested Twice At Center On Halsted This Year; Wrigleyville Burglar Goes Back To Prison

A "Fang Banger Dual Blade Vampire Lover's
Folding Pocket Knife." $10 on Ebay.
A man charged with brandishing a knife at the Center on Halsted earlier this month is the same man who was arrested for allegedly threatening to kill a security guard there on January 20th.

Brian Conner of Uptown is charged with aggravated assault after allegedly pulling a dual-blade knife on a COH employee while yelling, “So you got my peoples locked up!”

Arresting officers didn’t find a knife in Conner’s possession when they arrested him, but the victim walked into the station while Conner was being processed and turned over the knife that Conner allegedly pulled.

The victim said the knife—emblazoned with the words “Vampire Lovers” in red lettering—had been recovered from a snowbank near the Center.

Last month, Conner, 22, was charged with simple assault after allegedly lunging toward a COH guard who woke him up inside the community center. “If you touch me,” Conner reportedly warned, ”I’m going to come back and kill you.” His bail is set at $10,000.

Hard Time For Wrigleyville Burglar

Nocentelli  (Cook Co Sheriff's Dept)
A career criminal who was arrested while walking out the front door of a Wrigleyville home on December 30 is going back to prison.

Bryant Nocentelli, 30, received a 6-year sentence in exchange for his guilty plea. At the time of his arrest, Nocentelli was on parole after being released early from a 9-year prison sentence—also for burglary.

He had previously been released early from prison sentences that he received for burglary in 2005, 2004, and 2002.

Nocentelli’s scheduled to be paroled on December 27, 2020. Mark your calendar.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

NO BALONEY: "Subway Bandit" Suspect Is Arrested, Charged With Robbing Northbrook Sandwich Shop

Feldman (Cook Co. Sheriff's Dept)
A man who was wanted for questioning in connection with a series of armed robberies around our neighborhood and nearby Lincoln Park is in the custody of Lake County authorities tonight.

Adam B. Feldman, 26, of Northbrook is charged with robbing a Subway restaurant at knifepoint in that city on Sunday.

He has not been yet charged in connection with the robbery of Subway restaurants in Wrigleyville and near the Belmont CTA station. However, Chicago police issued a citywide alert for Feldman on Monday, saying that he was wanted for questioning in connection with those crimes as well as the theft of an auto in Lake View and the subsequent attempted robbery of a Lincoln Park tanning salon.

Surveillance images of a man preparing to rob a Subway
restaurant in Wrigleyville on Saturday. Chicago police want to
talk with Feldman about the robbery and other crimes.
While Feldman has had a handful of arrests in Cook County since 2007, he has only been convicted once—for escaping or violating the terms of court-ordered electronic monitoring. He was given 30 months probation in that case.

As CWB reported early Tuesday, Feldman is also facing burglary, theft, and identity theft charges in Lake County for allegedly stealing a woman's car and using her credit cards last month. He is being held on $100,000 bond. Again.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

AWKWARD: Emanuel Robbery Missing From City Crime List

UPDATE FEB 21, 2:15PM—City Chief Data Officer Tom Schenk Jr. stated via Twitter Friday that "we [identified] the issue and fixed it." The Emanuel robbery is now online with another 114 crimes that were "omitted in the past 8 years" due to the glitch, Schenk said. We have asked Schenk for more information about what caused the omission.

Needless to say, we're intrigued that the mayor's son would be affected by a SNAFU that affected just 115 of the 2,864,209 crimes reported in Chicago over the past 8 years.

CWB's original report from 9:33PM on February 17 follows.


Fresh questions are being raised today about the accuracy and transparency of crime statistics provided under Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

CWB has found that the beating and robbery of Emanuel's teenage son on December 19 does not appear anywhere in the Chicago Data Portal—a city-run public web site that is supposed to be so accurate, the Chicago Police Department used its existence as an excuse to stop issuing annual reports to citizens after nearly 50 years.

Emanuel Discovery

After two armed robberies were reported in Emanuel's neighborhood this week, a CWB editor visited the city database to compare year-over-year robbery rates for that area.

Emanuel's case, HX548723, is missing from the city's crime list.
Other case numbers may be missing if they are assigned to
 non-criminal matters like traffic accidents.
He didn't get very far: "The robbery of the mayor's son was probably the highest-profile robbery in Chicago last year," he said, "Its absence screamed at me."

CWB contacted the Chicago Police Department about the missing data on Tuesday morning. No one has responded to our inquiry.

No matter how we searched the Data Portal for the Emanuel incident, it never showed up. We searched by the police case number. By street. By police beat. By crime category. Everything. It's not there.

Not The First Time

Less than a year ago, CWB reported that more than 20% of Lake View crimes were missing from the city's Data Portal over the course of a month.

Chicago magazine investigative reporters David Bernstein and Noah Isackson asked a police spokesman about the omissions in their award-winning two-part report about the manipulation of city crime stats. The spokesman called it a "glitch."

But, the Chicago Tribune and other major mainstream outlets rely on the Data Portal's information to power their own crime stat websites. When the Data Portal is wrong, bad crime stats are pushed out to the public with the seeming endorsement of, say, a 168-year-old metropolitan newspaper.

And when crime stats appear under a trusted masthead—regardless of their accuracy—politicians eat it up. Uptown Alderman James Cappleman to ABC7 this month:
Per the Chicago Tribune, since 2011 when I started office, crime has dropped over 25 percent in the 46th Ward, except in Uptown where violent crime has dropped 39 percent.
Yeah. Actually that should be "per the city-run Data Portal." The Tribune merely turns city-provided data into colorful graphics.

The City's Crime Bible

Before CWB learned that a large chunk of Lake View crimes weren't appearing in the Data Portal last year, we relied on the site while researching a story about crime rate changes in all of Chicago's 50 wards.

Four days later, 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney released a police-generated report that compared reported crimes in his ward during 2003 and 2013.

With more than 10,000 crimes involved, our story's crime count varied from Tunney's by .1734% — reinforcing the point that the stats provided by the Data Portal are the same stats provided by city authorities.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

So, the question has to be asked. If the armed robbery of the mayor's own son is missing from a cornerstone of the city's crime transparency campaign, what's happening with the hundreds of thousands of other crimes that average people report?

And why on Earth should anyone believe it when politicians and police executives point to these statistics to claim that "crime is down?"

Considering that a citywide election is less than a week away, we doubt that current office holders will trip over themselves to get the crime database corrected. (If they did, the Tribune might have accurate information. James.)
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BLIND SPOTS: Man Robbed At Gunpoint Near Mayor's House Monday; CVS Robbed Nearby This Morning

Developing: In addition to the robbery at gunpoint reported below, the CVS Pharmacy at 4051 N. Lincoln—about five blocks from the mayor's home—was robbed at knifepoint at 5:15AM today. It is the second time that store has been robbed this year.

A CVS clerk told police that a white or Hispanic man brandished a knife or box cutter, pulled the drawer open, and took the store's cash.

The offender today was described as being 5'3" tall, 180 pounds, wearing a black hat, beige jacket, and black shoes.

Our original report about the robbery at gunpoint follows.
A Lincoln Square man was robbed at gunpoint around 7:40PM Monday just three blocks from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's police-fortified Lake View home. No one is in custody.

When police met the victim in the 4500 block of Hermitage, he reported that three black male teenagers dressed in all black approached him, produced at least one handgun, and demanded his valuables. Witnesses saw the offenders escape eastbound on Sunnyside from Ashland.

Taken in the robbery were the victim's laptop. iPhone 5, iPod, and wallet. His phone's last pings showed it heading past Fullerton on southbound Lake Shore Drive.

Mayor Emanuel's own son reported being beaten and robbed steps from the family's front door on December 19. Days later, Emanuel told reporters that his son had been victimized in a "blind spot" and promised to have police sweep the city to rid it of such robbery-friendly backwaters.
There are some blind spots and [the police are] gonna address it from a safety on the block — not the safety of the house [issue] for us…it’s their job to do it for everybody in the city — not just us.
Since that statement, the 19th police district's second-in-command has been assigned to personally inspect conditions outside of the mayor's house every working day.

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy told reporters after the Emanuel robbery that the cops who sit in front and back of the mayor's home 24/7 "are sitting on the mayor’s house. They are not sitting on the mayor’s neighborhood," a fact that surely became crystal clear to one Lincoln Square resident last night.
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