A Chicago Police car turns off of Michigan Avenue. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

LAKEVIEW — Two North Side aldermen will co-host a community forum next week to address carjackings as residents increasingly demand solutions to the citywide surge in attacks.

The 43rd and 44th ward forum will be held 6 p.m. Feb. 2 via Zoom. People can register online to attend.

Alds. Michele Smith (43rd) and Tom Tunney (44th) will host alongside Police Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan, representatives from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the commanders for the 18th and 19th police districts.

Carjackings have been on the rise in the city for more than a year with a 135 percent jump in 2020, according to Chicago police data. That trend has continued into 2021 with 166 carjackings reported in the first 22 days of the year.

In the 19th Police District, which encompasses Lakeview and parts of Lincoln Park and Uptown, carjackings have nearly tripled, going from 11 in 2019 to 29 in 2020. The area’s most recent attack occurred Jan. 22 in the 800 block of West Wilson, according to police.

Neighbors in the Town Hall District have said they are living “on edge” as carjackings continue to occur in their area.

Supt. David Brown announced last week the department is assigning more detectives to investigate the cases and is expanding the carjacking task force. Frightened residents are buying guns to try to protect themselves.

At a recent hearing of the City Council’s public safety committee, frustrated aldermen pressed police and prosecutors for explanations and potential solutions for the issue. Brown reiterated many of the attackers are 15 to 20 years old.

But the majority of people arrested in connection to a carjacking last year were charged with misdemeanor trespassing to a vehicle. And those more minor charges led to fewer prosecutions in juvenile court, prosecutors have said.

Smith is among several aldermen who have advocated for stricter punishments in carjackings, even when the person involved is a juvenile. She reiterated that in a newsletter to constituents.

“I support legislation to punish adults more severely if they involve juveniles in their crime, and in many cases, I think juveniles should be charged as adults,” Smith said.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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