WICKER PARK — A parking ban meant to prevent partying and crime in Wicker Park was not enforced in the hours before one person was killed and four others were wounded in a drive-by shooting Sunday morning.
The weekend overnight parking ban along Milwaukee Avenue was put in place this summer after business owners complained there was rowdiness going on at all hours and it involved weapons and alcohol. Drivers parked there are supposed to be ticketed and their cars towed.
But local police, the alderperson and a neighboring business owner said cars were not towed Saturday night or Sunday morning. The drive-by shooting occurred about 3:42 a.m. Sunday in the 1500 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, police said.
Sgt. Michael Edens, of the 14th Police District, said police have a standing request with the city to send a tow truck to Milwaukee Avenue, but none came because all the trucks were being used to clear routes for the Chicago Marathon. A spokeswoman with the Department of Streets and Sanitation said they weren’t asked for tow trucks Saturday.
“Something had broken down with the enforcement there. And we’re following up with Streets and Sanitation. … Ordinarily, they would be the ones who … would have been towing cars and keeping the public way clear,” Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) said. “The towing wasn’t happening the way it ought to have been.”
The parking ban is in effect 10 p.m.-5 a.m. Friday-Sunday on Milwaukee Avenue between Division Street and North Avenue. It was implemented June 25 and originally scheduled to last until Sept. 6, but it is now is in place through Nov. 1.
Edens said the city typically starts writing tickets about 11 p.m. weekends. He said he didn’t know if officers wrote any tickets to cars parked along that stretch of Milwaukee after 10 p.m., but one or two tow trucks have routinely shown up to begin towing around midnight.
But he was told all the trucks were spoken for Saturday, he said.
“We didn’t have any tow trucks available because they had to clear 26 miles of roadway,” Edens said. “I had talked to one of the [officers] working that night, as far as like, ‘Why don’t we have any tow trucks?’ and they were told it’s because they didn’t have any available because of the marathon.”
Mimi Simon, Streets and Sanitation spokesperson, directed questions to police, saying it enforces the ban. Asked about the standing request for tow trucks, Simon said in an email Streets and Sanitation did not receive a request for towing on Milwaukee Avenue Saturday.
Police Department spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment.
Sunday’s shooting comes as officials in Wicker Park have struggled to contain public partying and crime in the neighborhood, especially along Milwaukee Avenue.
“It’s always been like that a little bit, but never to this extent. Once the pandemic hit, I don’t know what happened, somehow Milwaukee Avenue became the hottest club in Chicago,” Alma Wieser said on Monday. She runs Heaven Gallery in Wicker Park.
Wieser, who was at the gallery during the shooting, said cars were not towed along Milwaukee as of early Sunday morning.
“They didn’t tow cars. So maybe if that had still been in effect, we wouldn’t have this problem,” she said.
La Spata said overall, the parking ban has been effective at deterring crime and partying on Milwaukee.
“I believe it’s not the only tool we need to use, but I feel like it has been successful in eliminating some of the instability that had been reported to us by both the 14th District and by the businesses on that stretch,” he said.
Jeremy McDevitt, general manager of Nick’s Beer Garden, 1516 N. Milwaukee Ave., said he’s supportive of the parking ban, but it “hasn’t fixed” the neighborhood’s crime issue.
“It’s not just Wicker Park, I know, but certainly this Milwaukee Avenue corridor is experiencing a tremendous amount of difficulty regarding this. It’s gone on all over River North, it’s traveling to different spots … but it seems to be persisting here,” he said.
McDevitt said the spike in crime is having an impact on his bar’s bottom line.
“There’s a lot of times a day where this is a vibrant business district, where there’s a lot of retail, there’s people walking around, it is safe. And then there’s other times where during the day, I’m hearing a lot going on in the back neighborhoods of Wicker Park, the residential areas,” he said.
“The city needs to be doing more to protect its business districts. … It can happen everywhere, and they need to recognize where these problems are and fix them.”
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