Wednesday, July 02, 2014

OUR TWO CENTS: Manage The Parade, Reclaim Belmont

At a community meeting last July, Alderman Tom Tunney dismissed neighborhood concerns about the overwhelming nature and disastrous after-effects of the Chicago Pride Parade in a not-so-gentle way, claiming that one audience member who spoke up was "just one person" who had "an ax to grind."

This July, he made a sharp change of course:
Safety is my ongoing number one concern for our Ward. The problems that came with the post-parade late-night crowd will be addressed as we continue to examine the parade route and evaluate all options for next year.
Well, that escalated not-so-quickly. So now what? Should the parade be moved downtown to resolve the after-Pride mayhem?

Here's our two cents:  The issues that have been seen during and after recent Pride Parades are the  results of two forces colliding in one great big mess.

The city can move the parade if it needs to, but doing so will have no impact whatsoever on the neighborhood's ongoing street crime problem--a problem that is merely amplified after Pride.

#1: "100 Pounds Of Rainbows In A 5-Pound Bag"

First, the Pride Parade does not have one million spectators. If you don't believe us, listen to what the CEO of Chicago Special Events Management, the company that oversees major events such as Pride Fest and Market Days, said about the parade:
He said that even the Pride Parade, which had crowd estimates of 850,000 [in 2012] probably had closer to 250,000 people.
“Those are crazy numbers,” he said. “Think of the population and physical space. It would be impossible to have those many people lined up and down the streets.”
The problem is that the parade has grown exponentially in recent years and it has evolved into a free-for-all party in which everyone wants to be at the same spot: Roscoe and Halsted. Organizers tried to address the overcrowding on Halsted by lengthening the route in 2012, expecting people to spread out. The crowd didn't spread out and it won't spread out voluntarily.

Who wants to have a pride party at Broadway and Montrose? Your mom, that's who.

We'd like to see the parade stay in Boystown. It just feels right. It is right. But the organizers need to step up and figure out a way to alleviate the overcrowding before things go from bad  and really bad to being tragic.

How to do that? Dunno.

Try dangling carrots. Maybe set up some smaller events at outposts along the route. Bands or something to draw people away from the epicenter.

Try using sticks. Establish Halsted Street from, say, Cornelia to Aldine as a VIP zone. To be there, you need to buy a ticket. Set up some grandstands. Make it fabulous.

Maybe liquor establishments should be barred from serving booze from one hour before the parade until one hour after.

That's all top-of-the-head stuff. But it's a start.

#2: The Criminal Beachhead On Belmont Avenue

The quarter -mile stretch of Belmont between Halsted and Seminary has always been a little sketchy. A vibrant mix of skinheads, hookers, and people who probably oughta get back on their meds. But Belmont's sketchiness has gone from "Dude, I just saw a guy pierce his own nut sack" to "Dude, I just saw a guy get the sh!t beat out of him by 8 verrrry masculine girls."

Sunday morning, we reported that at least 10 people had been robbed on that short stretch of Belmont in three weeks. Most of those people received complimentary beat-downs in the process. Sunday night, two more people were worked over and robbed there.

One of Sunday's victims could have thrown a rock and hit the group of cops who were guarding the scene of a shooting at Belmont and Sheffield. The cops' presence meant nothing to the criminals.

One of the other victims was strong-armed next to the Belmont L tracks while two CPD Transit Detail units sat outside of the station entrance. Beyond brazen.

The city must neutralize the criminal element that has established a beachhead on Belmont Avenue. How? Well, just parking cops there doesn't seem to work. So we'll throw out a few ideas:

• Address the loitering. When neighbors go to CAPS meetings and complain about serious loitering issues and car parties, they are told that there's nothing the police can do. "Unless they're doing something wrong, they have every right to be there," is the boilerplate response. So, explain this:

Hours after the Pride Parade wrapped up, the 19th district's #2 officer issued these orders to cops assigned to clear loiterers from Belmont and Halsted:  "If they are not in a business or waiting in line for a business, they have to move."

One random Friday morning last July, a go-getter sergeant told an overnight paddy wagon team, "Go keep an eye on [the Belmont Red Line station]. Keep it clear. And if they start gathering by the L, let them know that if they are not using CTA services, they will be arrested for trespassing." We need more of that kind of policing. A lot more.

• Restaff our police district. Its manpower must be returned to a reasonable level. They've taken away 25% of our cops in the past two years. Fewer cops means more and more serious crimes receive less-than-vigorous police responses. If four units respond to a robbery, they can conduct a search, talk to people, and maybe have a 30% chance of catching the guy. If one unit responds, that guy is not going to get caught. He will be emboldened and will return to rob yet another neighbor.

As of yesterday afternoon, charges had been filed in just four the 60 robberies reported in Wrigleyville and Boystown so far this year.

• Enlist the attorneys and city services. The city's experts need to be brought on-board to determine what additional steps are at our disposal. Lawyers are paid to find ways to get things done legally. If Alderman Tunney can craft, sponsor, and succeed in passing an ordinance that requires smoke shops to tell the city how many square feet of their stores are occupied by bongs, he can certainly craft ordinances to shore up areas the lawyers deem lacking.

• Everyone needs to step up or step aside.

Bottom line: The city can move the parade if that's what is necessary, but Belmont Avenue is not going anywhere.
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  1. Thank you for perhaps the most well-reasoned "solve" post that I have seen on CWB.

    For the past couple of weeks I have gotten to point of real disgust with too many posters looking at the small stuff, the really irrelevant stuff, the stuff that will not fix what is going on in Wrigleyville, Boystown and the adjoining neighborhoods in Lakeview and Lincoln Park.

    With this post, CWB has proposed a needed two-pronged approach to getting us on the path to a solve. No name calling, no petty suggestions, no politics...just addressing the issues and suggesting how WE fix things in conjunction with those who represent us, be they in elected office or in uniform.

    Thank you, CWB, for a great and well-thought out posting.

  2. It's a great common sense solution but one that sadly won't get implemented.

  3. If alcohol is not served during the parade, people will bring their own booze. I say let the parade go. It outlived its time and it doesn't do anything positive for the neighborhood.

  4. Excellent post. The VIP section is a fabulous idea. Bands and such to help spread the crowd....brilliant. Now, expecting Mr. Tunney to get this proposed and implemented...not so much.
    Belmont. It's hard to understand how they can end loitering on a selective basis, and it be impossible to do move them along the rest of the time. Look around Michigan Avenue. There are plenty of no loitering signs AND plenty of police officers. Dozens from Walton South to the River. Present, visible and apparently nothing out of the ordinary.
    You've pointed out the issues for over a year and now you've offered reasonable considerations to build into solutions. Thanks!

  5. I genuinely appreciate the thoughtful possible solutions to the parade issue. I see several obstacles and even arguments FOR MOVING the parade:

    The parade has become code for Everyone Is Free To Do What They Want Without Limit. That's the mentality, and this a BIG EVENT that draws crowds far beyond not only the gay community but from all over the city, the suburbs and the midwest region. This is where the control is already lost and why the parade should be moved downtown Even though CWB thinks it is a neighborhood event, It is no longer a neighborhood event put on by and for people who take personal ownership (pride if you will) in it.

    Regarding your point to move people from the epicenter: People don't want to be moved from the epicenter as long as the parade is there. The Halsted area is THE place to be.

    Regarding the VIP Zone: This defeats the all-inclusive nature of the event, and it will be overrun by the crowds and difficult to control, requiring significantly more labor resources.

    Regarding shutting off liquor sales: people bring their own, and you're taking the money away from the bars anyway. And this wont solve the problem if people who come have a You Can Do Anything You Want mentality.

    So, if this is a citywide and regional draw, we're moving people away from the epicenter, and we're stopping liquor sales for a few hours.........why not just move the parade downtown and make it a city and regional event with plenty of room? Let the bars, restaurants and other businesses rent tents & booths like other big events.
    Move the parade, make it a pride for the whole city and region, "make it fabulous!", THEN let's see what the neighborhood aftermath is like.
    Our neighborhood event is now Pride Fest.

    As for the "Belmont Problem" your ideas are good but nothing will change unless there is community outrage and city administration admits a significant problem, which wont happen without community outrage.

    1. You said it much better than I could. Thank you.

    2. Well said. Very thoughtful and grounded in reality.

  6. Well said, thank you!

  7. New York, San Francisco and Boston all have their parades in center city. Why does it work there but would not work here? While Lakeview is special, must the parade be here? Lakeview is no longer a gay ghetto. This parade is one of the largest in the city and should reflect the diversity of this community's habitat. We live on the north, south and west sides of this city, but all share one city center. That is where the parade should be.

    On the comments regarding crime in the area, I am in total agreement. Moving the parade will not solve the crime issues that plague this area? That is an ongoing issue that needs separate attention. As mentioned by CWB, the return of police staffing to pre-merger levels is paramount. Finding legal ways to clean up Belmont and Halsted, as mentioned above are needed..

    As a gay man who has watched the parade since the mid-70's, I am sorry to say that it has grown too large for the safety of both the neighborhood and the onlookers along the route. Holding it downtown with an organized festival in the park afterwards works well in San Francisco. Maybe we should try it here.

  8. The Parade
    Throughout the 80's it became a very big event with more and more people attending each year, but overall, it remained a weird, foreign, alien event in the eyes of most people. During the 90's it gained more mainstream acceptance and attracted a lot more straight people. The gay community responded by having a Sally Field moment ("You like me! You really like me!"), and the welcome mat for one and all was thrown down. Now it's the all inclusive "Pride" parade, no longer the "Gay Pride" parade. I would guess the vast majority of marchers are straight...just stop to consider all of the politician and church and business entries, it's mostly straight people marching, and they now make up the bulk of the parade. Clearly, the crowd in attendance is largely straight. It's become a huge event for straight people of various areas to come in, get drunk, trash the neighborhood and leave the mess in their wake. The after parade crowd is a super-sized version of trouble-making thugs that infect the neighborhood regularly at night. I've been attending the parade since 1980, and this is the first year since then that I've taken a pass. I feel bad about it because it did mean a lot back in the day. Now, "pride"? it's an embarrassment that has no meaning. Move it downtown and let it turn into whatever it will turn into, or keep it in Lakeview as the Gay Pride parade, and scale it way back in scope to a smaller event (how that might be done, I have no idea).

    I think part of the solution is a very well organized and relentless campaign by resiidents of that area to call the police over and over and over to report the crowds clogging up the street. Tell the police you couldn't get down the sidewalk and you want to sign a complaint. That's how the police can move them along. but people need to get together and come up with system and don't let up until it becomes a very unwelcoming place for the trouble-makers to be. At the CAPS meeting tonight we were told that you can return home and call from there, but you must sign a complaint. People in the affected areas need to relentlessly call in and sign a complaint. Also, the bars on Halsted need to start calling in and signing complaints about the gangs lingering all night in front of their establishments.

  9. Great post. Good ideas. If I could throw my two cents in too, and maybe a rebuttal....

    First, the parade route: I think we can all agree that the City's crowd estimates are always inflated. 850k? No way. 250k? More likely. The problem with this is that the parade has outgrown the area. We know 81 times a year, an extra 30,000 people going to the Cubs game puts a tremendous strain on the neighborhood. This is about 8x that amount. Also, Halsted is too narrow of a street. Moving it to Broadway or Clark doesn't help. The South Side Irish Parade is on Western Av, which is a wide, main thoroughfare. Throw in all of the narrow surrounding streets, large crowds, and narrow, overcrowded parade route, and God forbid something catostrophic happens, especially at ground zero Belmont and Halsted.

    Belmont Av criminals: I worked in the 019 district for two decades. That stretch of Belmont has always been the portal to the bizzaro world. Believe it or not, that area was improving a bit, until a few years ago. See below.

    Loitering: loitering laws have changed in the last few years. In the 90's, we were able to arrest gangbangers for just wearing gang colors and congregating together. Not so much anymore. As a police officer, my peace cannot be breached. And what happens when you do encounter the guy who isn't in line for a bar, isn't walking away, and isn't impeding pedestrian or vehicle traffic? Lock him up for what? Some officer has to put his name on that arrest report, and in this culture of video phones, lawyers on speed dial, youtube, and the theory that suing the City is an easy and lucrative settlement, locking someone because they're on the sidewalk isn't exactly a winning proposition. If you do arrest them, and they don't sue, it's still going to get thrown out in court by the goofy judge at Branch 29. Don't get me wrong, sometimes, a person just needs to get locked up, but sometimes you have to pick your battles. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

    District staffing/re-staffing: Before the merge, both districts were short. After the merge, you had one big district that was short. When McCarty, Wysinger, and the aldermen told the community at Lake View HS that no officers would be reassigned or sent out, they didn't lie. What they didn't tell you was that if they left (retired, quit, transferred, or were promoted), they would not be replaced. At the merge, there were about 420 blue shirts in new 019. Last November, it was about 325. After the Great Exodus of the last six months, they can't even fill what has left. This WILL NOT CHANGE AS LONG AS RAHM IS IN OFFICE. Rahm slyly did what Daley, and every other mayor tried to avoid....taking police resources from nice, lower crime areas, and sending them to worse, higher crime areas. By not assigning any graduating recruits to 019, and not replacing the officers who left, he depleted the district of manpower. Then, by assigning all graduating recruits to the soth and west sides, he beefs up those high crime districts, while neglecting the taxpaying, better neighborhoods. Belmont Av is a perfect example. It was getting better. There used to be two to three foot guys on afternoons, assigned to that area. Now, there aren't enough people to fill the basic beat cars. This isn't something exclusive to 019. 016, 017, and 020 also are very short. 016 is approx 30+ sq miles, and they have less than 200 officers for the whole district. One other little tidbit. When the districts merged, the lieutenants were all old 023 district lieutenants. They didn't know (and didn't care) about what went on west of Clark St. They still don't.

    All of the above are things that can be changed/addressed, but one thing that has to change is the culture of the parade patron who comes down there and acts like a complete moron. People have to take responsibility for their actions. Sorry this got lengthy.

    1. We don't mind lengthy when it's filled with great information and experienced insight like this. Thank you.

    2. Thanks for you service as a PO and for this analysis.

    3. Three things: 1) People on the South and West sides pay taxes just as people on the North side do. 2) Every district should be manned properly with an effective force that drives down crime. 3) The big groups of loitering thugs are a safety concern. Remember also though that a lot of the robberies don't occur when someone encounters them. Most of the robbery victims were attacked by one or two people spontaneously. This is probably what should be factored most into a policing strategy.

    4. "Remember also though that a lot of the robberies don't occur when someone encounters them."

      Can you help us understand what that sentence means?

    5. Sure, CWB. "Them" meaning the big groups loitering. In other words, someone is more likely to be robbed by one or two people who jump out of an alley, for example, than a big group blocking the sidewalk. The big groups loitering can be menacing and intimidating. But having the police move them along is like moving the parade downtown--the larger problem, robberies, would still exist and have to be dealt with using a different strategy.

    6. Not sure that we agree on that point, but we thank you for taking part in the conversation. Much appreciated.

    7. Increasing or maintaining south/west side cops at the expense of the north side shows Rahm is too stupid to figure out who butters his city's bread. As the north side deteriorates, its tax base will erode from both reduced tourist taxes and aggregate spending, residents are moving out, that his budget problems will become permanent like Detroit's. IOW, Chicago's GNP will basically collapse.

      The concept of a gay area or gay pride is not dead - only in Chicago it is, because the city is too incompetent and corrupt to manage itself. This crap simply does not happen in Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Montreal's Village, etc. The biggest risk you run in the latter is a jay walking ticket.

  10. I'm sure the City has the authority to close the Boystown bars down on Pride Sunday - a move that would alleviate much of the Halsted crowds and drunkenness. Yes, the bars will complain but it becomes a matter of public safety at some point.
    Stop CTA trains from using the Belmont "L" station until 3 pm. By stopping trains from using Belmont from 10 am - 3 pm, the Halsted crowd will be dissipated and spread among stops at Diversey, Wellington, Addison, Sheridan, and Wilson.
    Traffic must be curtailed on local arterial streets after 6 pm in the immediate Boystown area. Too much vehicular traffic is car loads of thugs cruising the area and circling blocks. By forbidding right/left turns at some intersections and closing traffic on some streets, would do much to alleviate some of the problems.

    1. I said they should close all train
      Stations from Lawrence to north ave
      After 6 and put shuttle buses at the stations (outgoing)
      To get people to the nearest train station. This includes Friday and sat nights after a certain time

  11. If Halsted Market Days can charge a $5 "donation" for entrance into an event from Belmont to Addison, why not do the same for the parade? If you don't want to pay the $5, watch the parade somewhere else on the route. And, the 10,000 or so folks who *do* pay could fund a few more off-duty police officers for the parade aftermath.

    1. Those donations are voluntary; I never pay them. All you would do is cause even more congestion coming into the area.

  12. I'm researching at the moment and can't find the answer - does anyone know if Tunney voted in favor or against the hiring of 500 officers? I'm writing him a letter, albeit usless.

    1. The alderman has voted 100% in line with the position of the mayor's city council floor leader. He is a pure rubber stamp. There has not been a vote specifically focused on hiring officers, however, he has voted for budgets that largely froze the police budget. During the budget process late last year, Alderman Tunney sent the police superintendent a list of questions regarding police operations. The superintendent never answered those questions (he did reply to a South Side alderman) and Tunney voted in favor of the budget anyway.

    2. Thanks CWB! That's exactly the information I needed.

    3. How do you know he didn't get answers?

    4. It sickens me that most of Chicago's alderfools are nothing more than a rubber stamp for whatever the dictator, Rahm, wants. This was the same when Daley was in office as well. What is the point of having all those aldermen when they don't do a damn thing for the neighborhood residents? Just think of all the money the city would save if they weren't paying for all of those salaries, offices, staff members, etc. Very expensive rubber stamps, indeed.

  13. I'm just throwing it out here ...give the hood a break next year and move the parade downtown... control access via the CTA stop at Belmont and lets see where we net out.

  14. One random Friday morning last July, a go-getter sergeant told an overnight paddy wagon team, "Go keep an eye on [the Belmont Red Line station]. Keep it clear. And if they start gathering by the L, let them know that if they are not using CTA services, they will be arrested for trespassing." We need more of that kind of policing. A lot more.

    I know that Sergeant and Roy is an idiot that no one will listen to because he will get them sued!! It's NOT a crime to stand on a city street...............

    1. You are a slug aren't you? The law is very clear and has been upheld in court. The property underneath the el stations is maintained by the CTA and therefore they can issue no loitering statements and enforce it. If a couple of busses come and go and the crowd sits there they are in violation of the signs. CTA will sign complaints. Get out of your squad car and try doing some police work once in a while you slug.

      And Roy at the very least just wants to do his job

    2. Can also be locked up for plugging electronics, i.e. cell phones, into CTA property, for theft.

  15. Hey, hotshot. The station is CTA property. CTA signed.

  16. Here's the deal; the parade organizers, who have sponsors and probably pull a profit on the event, need to pay the costs of truly adequate police protection for the neighborhood not only during the parade but AFTER it as well. This should be a condition of the parade permit for the next year and every year afterwards. Cops can't go home at 6pm, they shuld be on duty until 6am the next morning. Nothing big, maybe just 2 cars/4 officers, with the tasty OT the cops love.

    1. Halsted was filled with cop cars at midnight. Two more would not fix this cluster fuck.

  17. Tinkerbell Tunney's willingness to consider moving the parade downtown is him admitting he's a complete failure as an alderman and has no ideas or clout to get anything done. The only thing he's good at is taking close to $200K from the taxpayers each year.

  18. I loved the way Tunney (1) arrived 12 minutes late for the CAPS meeting, and (2) stared vacantly out into space for most of the meeting. Someone needs to blow some sunshine up her skirt and let her know that she will NOT be re-elected.

    1. Agreed! I was there. I'm thinking he was trying to avoid the hard questions and statements in the condensed hour. I would have loved to see that meeting go on all night as it was evident that several citizens had a lot to say and rightfully so. Cheers to the gentleman who brought up the comparison to other city's pride parades and demanded a definitive position regarding the parade location from Tunney. I was annoyed when he was saying that the relocation of the parade was not his decision alone. I understand that but he plays a huge hand in the influence and decision. I felt as though he was trying to sideline the issue as usual. I can't wait to vote against him next year. I really hope to see him out of here.

  19. So to the CPD officers that were caught in the parade nonsense:
    1) How many officers were there doing parade related stuff a) during the parade and b) the next 12 hours after?
    2) How many officers do you think are needed (both during and the 12 hours after) to staff the parade to your liking?

    The reason why I ask is that Tunney, like all Alderman, really won't do anything unless their political life is in danger or they can stand to personally profit off of it. So my assumption is that the parade won't move in 2015. But understanding what CPD would like as a staffing for the parade and after, there's a target that we can use to kick Tunney and the parade organizers to cough up money for proper security.

    The conspiracy theorist in me says there's no way in hell that the parade will willingly be relocated downtown. Why? The parade "draws a million people!" and obviously, if you relocate it downtown it'll show the true number of people as 250k and exposing the lie from the organizers - you know, the ones who stand to gain financially from the parade. And besides, moving the parade downtown makes too much sense, and this being Chicago - what gets done that makes sense?

    1. It won't be moved the bars make too much money as do the bartenders. Best things to do is set your alarm lock your doors and go out of town Sunday and come back Monday. Sidetrack, Scarlet, Roscoes and Minibar will never allow it moved. They have way more power than the Clark Street bars over the neighborhood for some reason. I guess because it would be discrimination to hold them accountable.

    2. You may (or may not) be surprised to hear that a casual glance at the alderman's 2013 contributors does not appear to include any Boystown bars. Northalsted Merchants is on the list, but no Boystown bars.

      Top bar/liquor contributors to the alderman last year:

      Wirtz Family (Liquor distributors) $7,750
      Deuce's & the Diamond Club $6,500
      Sheffield's Beer & Wine Garden $4,500
      Four Courners Tavern Group $3,000
      John Barleycorn $2,500
      Moe's River North LLC $2,500
      Trader Todd's $2.250
      Rebel Bar & Grill $1,750
      Northalsted Area Merchants Association $1,300
      Bernie's $1,250
      MillerCoors $1,000
      RBI Sluggers $1,000
      Wilde Bar & Grill $500
      Wrigley Rooftops LLC $500
      1000 Liquors $500
      Murphy's Rooftop Company $500

    3. Well, that's what's on paper. This is Chicago.

  20. Suggestion: San Francisco Pride has a safety monitor program of hundreds of volunteers. The volunteers control intersections during the parade and monitor things during the festival. Could or does Chicago have the same sort of program?

  21. this article is a perfect example of why CWB is awesome. it is smart and informed, suggests solutions, calls for action, and is hilariously written while still being dead serious. this is impressive and i think you guys are the biggest badasses around. thank you for holding our city / neighborhood / businesses / officials / us accountable.