Aldermen Sophia King (4th) has submitted several videos to show that her office is addressing crime for all residents in her ward.
The videos come four months after the Crusader published a story on a joint Zoom town hall Hyde Park meeting on December 1 that Ald. King hosted with Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th).
With crime a big problem in poorer parts of their wards, the story raised questions about the aldermen possibly giving preferential treatment to residents in affluent Hyde Park after a University of Chicago student was killed in 2021.
In researching the story, the Crusader sent several emailed requests to Ald. King’s office, asking whether a similar town hall meeting will be held for residents in poorer areas of her ward. The story was published in January after Ald. King’s office failed to respond to the Crusader’s emails. But on April 11, Prentice Butler, Ald. King’s chief of staff, submitted four YouTube videos after a Crusader journalist spoke about the Hyde Park town hall meeting on WVON.
Butler in an email apologized for the situation and said his office has “conducted Zoom meetings throughout the pandemic to make sure we addressed public safety matters and other concerns. There have been community specific meetings for a larger audience and we have also held smaller meetings with block clubs/associations during this time period via Zoom.”
In that same email from Butler were links to four YouTube videos of meetings that Ald. King held with fourth ward residents. Three of those meetings were devoted entirely to addressing crime and safety concerns. One crime meeting Ald. King had in 2020 involved a joint town hall meeting with Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd) after shootings soared in their wards in 2019 and 2020.
But the most extensive crime meeting Ald. King had was on July 28, 2021. In addition to Ald. King, that meeting included Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Police Superintendent David Brown and District 2 Commander Joshua Wallace. The meeting was about crime in the police district 2 that serve the communities of Grand Boulevard, Oakland, Kenwood, North Kenwood and Hyde Park.
Lightfoot and Supt. Brown did not appear in the other two meetings, which did not address crime in Hyde Park or Kenwood. However, Wallace and other police and city officials spoke at the other two meetings.
The fourth video was a Grand Boulevard Advisory Council quarterly public meeting that took place on April 4, 2022. During that meeting, Ald. King said she plans to use $100,000 in discretionary funds that the city budgeted for every ward to purchase surveillance cameras in Grand Boulevard and Douglas. Ald. King said similar cameras are in Hyde Park, Oakland and Kenwood communities.
But the crime meeting Ald. King hosted on Zoom on July 21, 2021 was the most extensive. It included input from Mayor Lightfoot, Supt. Brown and Cdr. Wallace, who gave sobering details with alarming crime statistics for the second district. Cdr. Wallace said there were 70 carjackings so far that year. He also said so far there were 303 stolen vehicles compared to 229 in 2020. Cdr. Wallace said the district was experiencing a “huge” increase in Uber and Lyft vehicles that were stolen during deliveries. He said there was also a “huge” increase in car thefts after drivers with key fobs left their cars running and unattended believing they were secured.
Cdr. Wallace said the district had 26 murders so far that year, up from 16 in 2020. He said seven of those murder cases had been solved. Cdr. Wallace said the district had 61 cases of aggravated battery, up from 51 in 2020. He said the district had 685 violent crime incidents, compared to 579 in July 2021. Cdr. Wallace also said the district saw 134 armed robbery incidents so far in 2021 compared to 77 in 2020.
One resident who will remain anonymous shared a highly publicized carjacking incident that made the evening news in July 2021. She said she called police officers from the city and the University of Chicago after she saw thieves carjack an elderly man behind her garage. The woman said she had her children in her car at the time.
Another resident who lives in Bronzeville said she has seen an increase in drug activity on her street despite getting new cameras in the neighborhood. She said there were shootings where “we were just narrowly missed…just a few hundred feet away from from our house.” She asked Supt. Brown how can residents get more police to resolve the drug “hot spots” on the street?
Supt. Brown in the July meeting said the city overall is down by 1,500 officers from 2020 because of COVID-19. He said COVID-19 restrictions affected the department’s ability to produce new recruits at the police academy, which was shut down because of the pandemic. He also said many police officers are retiring from the force.
“In the second district, we are focusing on more visibility and more productivity to include more foot patrols,” Supt. Brown said. “We need to hear from the community on where we can be more visible. I’m challenging the commander to increase productivity and we really need to have a conversation about what that really means. That means more traffic stops in the areas where we are seeing more carjackings. We’re seeing more violence to include more stops of suspicious people. All of this being constitutionally driven but we are looking for guidance from this meeting on this challenge.”
Speaking from her office on Zoom, Mayor Lightfoot said in the July meeting, “Our biggest challenge in our city around violence is the proliferation of guns. As we sit here today, the Chicago Police Department has already taken 6,600 illegal guns off the streets of Chicago. We’re on pace for another record year.”