Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Citizen Outcry over CPD Absence during Memorial Day Chaos

posted by chicago pop

From the local news aggregator Everyblock Chicago, a string of commentary following the Memorial Day murder at the 57th and LSD pedestrian underpass. A common theme: absence of the Chicago Police Department until well after the posted hour for park closing; the presence, among large numbers of peaceful park users, of roving gangs of aggressive young males; reckless driving near the lakefront. All ongoing for several hours with no visible law enforcement presence to act as a deterrent or punish violations.

In contrast to the attention lavished on the relatively minor 'flash mob' incidents along the Magnificent Mile - by the media, the CPD, and even the Mayor of Chicago - this incident has dropped off the headlines. The CPD did, however, stage a public 'roll call' several days afterwards - long after the killers had disappeard, and when the Point was mostly empty of the people who use it.

Read the open letter from one Ms. "Laura Hussein" (and following discussion at Everyblock, some of which is excerpted here). All of the communications below were made public by their author:

Dear friends: Here is a copy of the letter I sent to the Univ Chi Police, 5th ward alderman, Mayor and Toni Preckwinkle. Please feel free to use this, edit this, and pass on to people who can help!
Dear Ms. Hairston,
We are very saddened to learn of the death of Aeyanuna Rogers, a 22 year old Northern Illinois University graduate, who was shot and killed on the pathway between the Point and the 57th street Beach at 11pm 5/30/2011, Memorial Day evening. We understand a 17 year old boy was shot in the leg and wounded near the restrooms of the 57th street beach.
I see that the Chicago Park district states that the Beach closes at 7pm, and Promontory Point park closes at 9pm, yet last night thousands of people were at the Point and the Beach well past these times.
For the past two years, since the opening of the Bar Louie restaurant, and particularly with the closing of the Shoreland Dormitory, we here in East View, 5490, The Park Shore, The Flamingo, and 5500 S South Shore Drive have witnessed a dramatic surge in large numbers of people coming to this area on warm days and evenings. People come to enjoy Promontory Point, the 57th Street Beach, and Bar Louie. However, after 3pm and extending until sunrise on warm days and nights, people also sit in parked cars and there are drug deals and acts of prostitution.
We know the University and CIty Police Departments are well aware of the correlation between the first warm days and a sharp spike in crime. For this reason it was shocking that as thousands of people came to this area on 5/30/11, we saw very little police presence from the CPD and the UCPD.
It's hard to understand how so much manpower and effort could be made at one Beach location (North Beach), while the 57th street Beach did not even have a car patrol or bike police visible for most of the afternoon and evening, until well after 10pm.
We're very concerned that without a significant effort made toward 'peace-keeping' policing by both the CPD and UCPD, this will be just the beginning of a great deal of violence this summer.
After two years of very explicit concerns relayed, and now this death and additional shooting, we hope we can count on Police presence on friday, saturday and sunday evenings, and holidays, at a bare minimum?
I am also sending a letter to the Chicago Police Department for our precinct, and Robert Mason, head of Safety and Security for the University Police, as well as Board County President Toni Preckwinkle, and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.
Laura 'Hussein'

Below I have copied my correspondence on this activity to the University Police from a year ago:
-----Original Message-----
From: Laura
Sent: Monday, May 24, 2010 12:11 PM
Subject: Car and pedestrian traffic creating potential accidents at 55th and South Shore drive.
Dear Mr. Nimrocks-
I am a resident of S. South Shore Drive in east Hyde Park, 60615.
I am writing to bring to your attention the situation at 55th and South Shore Drive. With the arrival of warm weather we've seen an increase of people enjoying the park and the beach near 55th and South Shore drive. While this is expected, in past years due to the presence of the University's Shoreland Dormitory, we could count on a police presence on evenings and weekends, when pedestrian and car traffic peak.
My husband, neighbors, doormen, and I were very concerned yesterday however, to see more cars and people than we've ever seen in 6 years of living here, with no police presence until 10:30pm after complaints were phoned in.
My concerns are primarily about the sheer number of people, the number of cars and the chaos of the traffic when there are no police presence, and the inevitable safety risks that may follow.
From 2pm onward yesterday the car traffic was such that cars were speeding from 3 directions, trying to proceed north on south shore, while cars coming from the north turing right and left onto 55th were speeding through the stop sign without slowing down. We saw many pedestrians/bikers trying to cross through the cross walk with cars flowing through the cross walk 3 abreast, competing for a spot in the narrow lane with complete disregard for pedestrians and other vehicles.
By 9pm we noticed that the car traffic was still as busy and dangerously chaotic, and in addition there were approximately 300 people lining South SHore drive, sitting on the tops of parked vehicles, sitting on the chain-link fence of 5490, standing in and around the parked cars, while traffic continued to present safety risks. In addition, there were approximately 200 more people in the grass and closer to the under pass leading to the Point.
The majority of the people were calm individuals enjoying the warm night, but there were also large groups of young adult males who appeared dressed in street-gang type roaming up and down the street, calling out to and harassing pedestrians and people in cars. There were doubled parked vehicles with loud music and people entering and exiting these stopped vehicles, which were blocking the flow of traffic until it was at a stand-still most of the night from 9-10:30 when the police arrived.
Our doorman who has worked at this location for a decade noted that he had never seen the crowd as large, chaotic and unruly as he observed last night, 5/23.
Most alarming is that 55th and South shore appears to be a destination in warm weather for more potentially nefarious activity as well, as noted by Mrs. Heather Refetoff last year at this same time. Namely, the area around "the Pointe" at 55th and South Shore appears to be a summer "destination" for drug sale and use, street partying with loud music, food, drink and sexual activity, as evidenced by the empty bottles, used drug paraphernalia, and dirty condoms visible on the street this morning.
I have placed a call with our Alderman, Leslie Harrison, and plan to contact the local CIty of Chicago police dept. as well to make clear our concerns. We are also counting on the University Police dept. to take action as there are many faculty members and graduate students of the University, and countless children of the University of Chicago Lab school, still residing in this area of east Hyde Park.
In the past, Police presence has dramatically reduced the chaos and "scofflaw" patterns of the traffic, and it has also put a damper on the marauding young males and some of the drug and alcohol consumption in and around the parked cars.
We are requesting that you consult with the city, and find a way to ensure the presence of a patrol car near the parking lot at the end of 55th street, and another car at the cul-de-sac where south shore meets Lake Shore Drive, in order to monitor the growing pedestrian and car traffic and diffuse the more illegal activities before this situation presents yet another Hyde Park "crime disaster" such as those that have graced the headlines of the local media over the past few years, further justifying the northside/suburban
perception that the University of Chicago and Hyde Park is a crime-infested neighborhood.
Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this developing situation, and please let me know if I can assist in any manner.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Heather Refetoff" <>
To: "Rudy Nimocks" <>
Cc: "Robert J. Zimmer" ; "Eleanor Coe"
; "Onel, Kenan" ;
"Laura Lambert" ; "Corinne Morrissey"
<>; "Diane Lukoff" <>
Sent: Saturday, July 26, 2008 12:23 PM
Subject: Re: 55th and South Shore

Thank you for your prompt response to my complaint about the street
at 55th and South Shore Dr. May I make the following points, which I hope
will be helpful.
1. The unpleasant activity on the street is not Park related per se, it seems to ebb and flow throughout the year to a greater or lesser degree directly related to the amount of police surveillance. Naturally it is greater in summer because with warm weather people stay on the streets for longer periods; partying in and around parked cars is no doubt uncomfortable
in winter.

2. I have a direct view of the parking lot entrance from where I often
sit in the evening and activity can pick up instantly creating an absolute carousel of cars through the parking lot, which ceases as soon as a squad car turns up.
3. People on the street is not the issue, it is the behavior of some that is the problem, and that element has increased this summer more than in the past ten years that I have lived here. In recent years I worry about  safety when coming home in the evenings to park on the street.

4. I believe that this parking lot and adjacent streets have become a "destination" for the problems I mentioned in my letter to President Zimmer,namely drug sale and use, street partying with loud music, food, drink and sexual activity, as evidenced by the refuse on the street and confirmed by conversations with City police patrolmen. There has also been the
beginnings this summer of some very noisy motorcycle presence. I think the situation needs to be diffused before it presents yet another Hyde Park "crime disaster" such as those that have graced the headlines of the local media this past one or two years, further justifying the
northside/suburban perception that the University of Chicago and Hyde Park is a crime
infested neighborhood.

5. Finally I would again like to mention that despite the summer decrease in the student population of the Shoreland there is a very sizable number of graduate students resident in the Flamingo, we currently have four post docsthere, three single women in the late twenties and one male, (2 Italian, 1 Spanish and 1 German). I would hate to have any one of them become victim
to the current evening and late night activity on their doorstep. May I avail myself of your email to comment further as matters progress?

Heather Refetoff
On 7/26/08 10:34 AM, "Rudy Nimocks" <> wrote:
Dear Ms Refetoff:
We are aware of the problem and will be working with Commander Doty in order
to devise a long term summer collaborative patrol strategy specifically for that area. You are absolutely on point, we are being victimized by one of our most important community successes, good public safety. This problem is particularly perplexing because we cannot deny access to public streets and recreational areas to anyone, but it is nevertheless a problem we must
seriously address. I promise you we will do precisely that.

Rudy Nimocks
Chief of Police
and Security Services
University of Chicago
and Seurity Security Services


Andrew said...

Not to be a naysayer, but I and my family were on the Point from maybe 5 to 7, and there was a very visible police presence during that time. I can't speak to what it was like after that time, but it would certainly be worth knowing how many officers were assigned.

Anonymous said...

If the problems are being caused by "outsiders", doesn't it stand to reason that getting rid of free parking and replacing it with permit parking and meters would be a step in the right direction?

And where's Alderman Hairston? I haven't seen or heard a peep from her on any of this.

John said...


Good idea!

David Farley said...

Permit parking is like herpes. Once you have it, it's never going to go away. And the suggested response to a problem that's occurring generally three months out of the year on nice weekends would be to inconvenience people all year round? Unless, of course, the goal is to keep "outsiders" out of E. Hyde Park all year long. Is metered parking going to deter anybody from coming to the lake late at night and making trouble?

Anonymous said...

My point was that the same people who complain about "outsiders" and noise from Bar Louie patrons are the most vociferous proponents of having their free parking in East Hyde Park. Permit parking and meters are the most obvious way to empower (and encourage) the police to increase patrols. What better encouragement than the smell of revenue from illegal parkers and meter scofflaws?

The way North (and some South) side neighborhoods deal with overcrowding is via permit and metered parking. I can't see how anyone loses in this. So those who dislike "outsiders" have to get a number added to their Chicago sticker and buy temporary passes for their guests? Big whoop.

I don't care one way or the other about "outsiders", but I definitely don't like hypocrites who insist on free street parking but then want it only for themselves.

Richard Gill said...

I agree with Greg - on balance, permit parking can be advantageous to the neighborhood. The permits probably would apply only at night, so most beachgoers won't be affected. The permits are intended to help make a crowded neighborhood livable and attractive by ensuring residents a place to store their cars overnight.

The permits and guest passes are not free; one pays for use of the city's streets as an outdoor garage. I think of street parking as a sort of municipal service. Free parking is a luxury, not a right. Paying to park is part of the cost of owning and operating a car. Those (myself included) who pay for off-street parking, don't complain about it.

Residents who are in favor of permit parking would do well to band together and put pressure on their respective Alderman. Know that 5th Ward Alderman Hairston seems to regard permit parking as elitist and may not want to discuss it. So keep up the pressure. Having vigorously supported another candidate in this year's Aldermanic election, I'm certainly not in a position to lead such an effort. Anyone want to give it a try?

Chason said...

I would love to take you up on it, but will also be discredited, should Hairston ever find my Twitter account or my resume (with Campaign Volunteer, Anne Marie Miles plastered on it). However, should a letter or petition be drafted, you have my signature in a heartbeat.

M.C. said...

I run on lake shore drive early in the morning, as early as I can get out there because of the crowd and potential problems with running in the afternoon.

If the park was actually closed, even though it was a holiday, at the scheduled hours and everyone was directed to exit the park, maybe this wouldn't have happened. It makes you wonder if anyone was aware of if they just didn't care?