ENGLEWOOD — “We can’t arrest them, we just scare them away for a bit,” said a Chicago Police Officer in the Englewood District Sunday night as stores continued to be looted there and throughout the city.
The reason, according to the officer who asked not to be named, was because he was one of 15 officers getting from place to place on a CTA bus instead of in a police vehicle.
“We’ve lost more than 100 vehicles to vandalism. We have no cars, so how are we going to arrest anyone?”
The bus, driven by a CTA driver, contained 15 officers and a sergeant. It went from “hot spot” to “hot spot” where looting was going on but would usually only scare off the people who were stealing, police said.
Late Sunday night into early Monday, the bus made a stop at City Sports, 6535 S. Halsted St., that had already been completely cleaned out of its inventory throughout the day, as well as completely destroyed.
Police heard the looters were back for another look but by the time the officers exited the bus, they had run off. According to numerous officers on the scene, even if the people looting were caught, they didn’t have the ability to arrest anyone because they had no way to transport arrestees.
A few blocks away, another officer was standing guard near the strip mall that houses a Whole Foods and other stores at 63rd and Halsted streets. He said higher-ups in the department discouraged arrests.
“The way they look at it, it’s property crimes, but I wear a blue shirt so I have no power,” the officer said.
About 30 minutes after the CTA bus with the police officers stopped at City Sports, they stopped near a Chase Bank in the 6200 block of South Western Ave. There, a reporter watched as several of the officers exited the bus and ran towards the banks’ ATM machines in the drive-thru area that were being broken into. The would-be thieves ran off when they saw the officers coming.
On the West Side in Humboldt Park, police officers near a Foot Locker store at 3218 W. Chicago Ave. that was looted also said they did not have enough resources to do their jobs.
A lieutenant from the Harrison District pointed out that he had no radio, saying the department didn’t have enough for all officers working. Another officer at that scene echoed the Englewood officers, saying they weren’t as concerned about arresting looters as they were saving buildings because “they are property crimes.”
A police spokesman said Monday morning that he was not aware of any resource problems and said police had made many arrests Sunday but did not have numbers immediately available.
Police on both the South and West sides also said many stores were being looted more than once because board-up companies were refusing to come to some neighborhoods. That sentiment was confirmed by two employees from Kingdom Chevrolet, 6603 S. Western Ave., who personally stopped people from stealing several cars.
One of the men, who would only go by Michael, said more than a dozen people broke in through the iron fence of Kingdom’s used car store on the west side of Western Avenue and started up 12 cars but ran off when he fired two gunshots into the air.
Michael and another employee stood guard after calling in a private security firm — whose guards bailed shortly after showing up.
“They said they would be right back but that was five hours ago. I saw the fear in their eyes,” Michael said.
Back in Englewood inside the destroyed City Sports store, another officer said he felt bad that a lot of independent businesses were destroyed.
“Nick’s Gyros at 63rd and Damen was messed up. That’s a place where a lot of residents here depend on for meals,” the officer said. “Nothing is sacred to these looters.”
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