LINCOLN PARK — More technology to track license plates has been installed on Lake Shore Drive as part of an effort to slow the citywide carjacking epidemic, including in Lincoln Park and Lakeview, according to Chicago Police.
Alds. Tom Tunney (44th) and Michele Smith (43rd) hosted a community forum Tuesday night to discuss the issue.
“While overall crime is relatively lower in 2020, the carjacking phenomenon has gone out of control, which you know because you live and breathe it every day in our communities,” Tunney said.
Nineteenth Police District Commander Chris Papaioannou said the city added more license plate readers onto Lake Shore Drive, which is often used by carjackers fleeing the scene of their crimes.
Police are using a similar tactic in the Wicker Park and Bucktown area, moving a license plate-reading camera to track people who use the Kennedy Expressway to flee the scene of a carjacking.
“A lot of our offenders are getting onto Lake Shore Drive and going into different districts, so having these plate readers allows us to know exactly where they’re going … so we have teams ready to intercept these individuals,” Papaioannou said.
More than 1,400 carjackings were reported across the city in 2020, up from 603 reported in 2019. The attacks primarily are occurring in the South and West sides, Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said, but some of the biggest percent increases in carjackings have occurred in Smith and Tunney’s lakefront wards.
In Smith’s ward, which encompasses Lincoln Park and parts of Old Town, carjackings rose from seven in 2019 to 15 in 2020.
In Tunney’s ward, which encompasses Lakeview, carjackings rose from two in 2019 to 13 in 2020.
So far, four carjackings have been reported in the two wards this year, according to data presented at the forum.
“This carjacking surge is one of these times when we all need to work together to combat a relatively new and frightening crime,” Smith said.
To combat these crimes, police have relied heavily on their districts’ Strategic Decision Support centers, which help track where the carjackings are happening the most, according to Jill Stevens, 18th district commander.
Officers are then deployed to these areas for high-visibility missions that could deter future carjackers, she said.
“And when our [tactical officers] aren’t doing those missions, they’re very involved with … community outreach,” Stevens said, adding that officers recently did a “walk-and-talk” with people in the DePaul area and put up carjacking flyers in the Gold Coast area, where a few of the crimes have taken place.
In one recent incident, police say a vehicle was stolen in Lincoln Park near the Marlborough, 2600 N. Lakeview Ave., then used in a fatal carjacking in Bridgeport.
“This really highlights what a citywide problem [carjacking] is,” 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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