posted by richard gill
Just before 5pm on Thursday, April 22, a dozen or so Chicago police patrol cars and vans swooped in at the corner of Hyde Park Boulevard & 55th Street. This wasn’t a raid or a response to a crime in progress. It was for a totally routine activity—roll call for police officers of Beat 32, 21st Police District, prior to the start of their shift. What wasn’t routine was the location, outdoors on a busy street corner.
Why that particular corner? It was to show a strong police presence in front of a retail store called Tobacco for Less. The store has been there about a year, selling tobacco products and snack food. Suspicions have arisen that the store may be selling cigarettes to minors and selling illegal wares. The roll call was conducted there in order to send a message to the store and its customers that the police are paying attention. It was also to reassure local residents that the police are on the case.
Police roll calls in public places are occasionally conducted where gangs hang out or criminal activity is known or suspected.
The showing on April 22 was indeed impressive. The cars arrived with swirling blue lights. The officers, about 20 in number, gathered across the street and then strode, rather like a platoon, to where the roll call was to be held, in front of the tobacco store. They lined up along the sidewalk, and a sergeant took the roll. It was semi-formal, and there was some good-natured bantering among the officers and people (most of them curious) who gathered to watch, and there was applause at the end. Representatives from the 4th and 5th Ward Aldermanic offices voiced appreciation for the officers’ efforts. The whole thing took less than ten minutes. The police departed and went to work.
This was strategy at work and great community outreach. I haven’t been that close to that many guns since the Army.