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Citing ‘Lawlessness And Violence In River North,’ Downtown Alderman Wants More Cops On Weekends

Ald. Brendan Reilly wrote Mayor Lori Lightfoot to demand more police patrols after a viral video showed two men being attacked in his ward.

A Chicago Police squad car on June 30, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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RIVER NORTH — After two men were robbed and beaten on State Street Downtown, an influential alderman wrote a fiery letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot saying the area needs more cops.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) sent the letter Monday after video of the State Street attack went viral. The video was first reported by CWBChicago.

Reilly and others criticized the police response, saying it took six minutes for officers to arrive on scene. A suburban man has been charged with robbery, aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and receiving, possessing or selling a stolen vehicle, according to police.

Reilly called it a “horrendous incident … terrifying my constituents and repelling future tourists from visiting our Downtown hospitality corridor.” The alderman, who also serves as the City Council’s president pro tempore, said there also were five recent incidents of shots being fired in the area. 

“The lawlessness and violence in River North is getting out of hand and is now predictable on a weekly basis,” Reilly wrote. “Local residents and tourists are scared to be in these areas after dark and these latest incidents further reinforce that.”

Reilly copied Supt. David Brown in the letter.

“While I support your long-term plan to address social factors and community issues that can shape violence, Downtown needs swift and immediate action to curtail this increase in dangerous criminal behavior. Chicagoans deserve to feel safe when walking down the street, regardless of the neighborhood,” Reilly wrote. 

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) speaks at a City Council meeting on June 25, 2021.

Reilly requested “immediate action to increase patrols in the Downtown neighborhood.” He also asked that any additional officers report to directly the 18th District commander, rather than to tactical units of officers working across the city. 

“It is my strong position that new, permanent officers need to be assigned to patrol the entertainment corridors like Hubbard Street, Clark Street and State Street every weekend, Thursday through Sunday,” he wrote. 

Lightfoot’s office did not comment on Reilly’s letter or whether more officers would move into the area. The Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Officers from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office began patrolling the Downtown area for the first time starting earlier this summer, according to WGN. That group included a sergeant and eight officers. 

“The Sheriff’s Office has for years provided police services in various Chicago communities as part of its effort to address violence and foster positive relationships within these communities,” spokesman Matt Wahlberg said in a emailed statement. “For the past several months, Cook County Sheriff’s Police have been conducting patrols in downtown Chicago to assist Chicago Police as well as residents and visitors to the city.”

Despite the purported uptick in Downtown crime this summer, Choose Chicago released a report Wednesday touting the city’s re-emergence as a tourist destination following a pandemic downturn last year.

Although still at just 60 percent of 2019’s average, travelers booked 2 million hotel rooms in Chicago June-August, reaching 71 percent occupancy rates on the weekends, the Sun-Times reported.

The Police Department and Lightfoot received heavy criticism from aldermen last year for allegedly pulling officers from neighborhoods to patrol Downtown, including during two waves of looting. They repeatedly pushed back against that criticism.

Reilly made waves in Democratic Party circles last year when he endorsed Republican candidate Pat O’Brien in his failed bid to take down Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. The endorsement earned Reilly a rebuke from the local party, according to the Sun-Times.

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