WICKER PARK — Local business owners and leaders are renewing a call for a special police patrol to prevent crime along Wicker Park’s Milwaukee Avenue after a shooting last week left a man critically wounded on the strip.
The shooting was the second in five months linked to The Point, 1565 N. Milwaukee Ave., a late-night bar and music venue that opened last year. But neighbors have for months complained about wild partying and crime along that stretch of Milwaukee.
Now, a petition is calling for the return of a special patrol to tackle “lawlessness and brazen illegal activity” on the strip. It’s racked up more than 1,000 signatures. The area’s chamber of commerce has also called for more police resources.
The more recent shooting happened about 5 a.m. Feb. 6. Jordan Mendez, 29, was having a drink inside The Point after his shift at a nearby bar when a man fired shots into the bar, hitting Mendez below his right eye, police and prosecutors have said.
Daveon Montgomery was charged last week with aggravated battery and aggravated discharge of a weapon into an occupied building.
That shooting came five months after one person was killed and four others wounded in an Oct. 10 shooting outside The Point. Police at the time said the shooting stemmed from a fight inside The Point, but bar owner Jun Lin disputed that, saying he’d called 911 several times to get help with rowdiness on the street before the shooting occurred.
Lin told Block Club last week he’s increased security at the bar since the October shooting and has staff diligently checking IDs at the door.
“We’re doing everything we can in terms of being a business. We were simply victimized twice with shootings. That’s violence in Chicago. I don’t think the answer is to my close business when we haven’t done anything wrong,” he said.
But Supt. David Brown shut down The Point on Feb. 8, reasoning that the bar was a “public safety threat,” according to a notice posted on the bar’s door.
The notice states Lin can request a hearing “before the mayor to determine whether a public safety threat occurred.”
Lin has not returned requests for comment this week.
Even before the shootings, neighbors had complained for months about open-air partying and crime along Milwaukee Avenue near the heart of Wicker Park.
In response, the 1st Ward office and 14th Police District last summer instituted a temporary overnight parking ban on weekends to deter people from partying out of their cars.
The ban was made permanent in January and covers the 1400 and 1500 blocks of North Milwaukee Avenue. The ban was in effect the night and morning of the Feb. 6 shooting, Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) said.
Now, business leaders and owners in Wicker Park are renewing a call for the city to dedicate a special police patrol to Milwaukee Avenue, similar to a program they said existed several years ago in the neighborhood.
After the first shooting outside The Point in October, Kevin O’Donnell, owner of The Pint, 1547 N. Milwaukee Ave., started an online petition calling for the “restoration” of the “Wicker Park CPD Team.” The petition has gotten more than 1,000 signatures.
“The North Milwaukee Ave Entertainment District has taken a wrong turn in the past year,” the petition reads. “It has become a Block Party with open liquor, selling drugs, traffic obstruction, blasting music, and increased violence. The atmosphere during the weekends promotes an environment of lawlessness and brazen illegal activity with zero consequences.”
O’Donnell said the Police Department had a team dedicated to the nightlife strip several years ago, allowing officers and businesses to work together to maintain order.
“It goes back to all philosophies about … community policing, relationships, officers being assigned to beats where they know all the players, the business owners, the neighbors, that whole idea idea of community policing, and that works,” O’Donnell said.
“Those same officers that everybody got to know who also knew all the bar and restaurant owners, we had a great relationship with them. Them being familiar, they would know if there were recurring bad players that were the ones creating problems. It was always a relatively controlled environment. We didn’t have the rampant insanity that developed since they were gone.”
Sgt. Mike Edens said the neighborhood used to have a designated “Wicker Park team” of officers patrolling the Milwaukee Avenue nightlife district, but he isn’t sure when it ended.
While there’s not an official “team” patrolling the corridor right now, Edens said the 14th District has four officers assigned to Milwaukee Avenue and surrounding commercial streets Tuesday-Sunday nights. Those officers also enforce the area’s overnight weekend parking ban.
“We make sure we have officers out there all the time,” Edens said.
Lin previously said a police squad car was stationed outside of the bar for hours the night of Feb. 5 and morning of Feb. 6 before the shooting.
Last week, the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, which is made up of local business owners, sent a letter to La Spata requesting The Point’s business license be permanently revoked, chamber Director Pamela Maass said.
“They recommended to Ald. La Spata based on the behavior and the continuing endangerment of the community that he remove the business license,” Maass said.
Maass said the chamber also supports dedicating more police resources to Milwaukee Avenue and designating it an official “entertainment district,” which she thinks will help the area receive extra police resources. Maass said similar designations exist in Wrigleyville and Downtown.
“We can only imagine the type of activity our business district is going to have coming into a summer and, knock on wood, out of a pandemic. So we want to make sure that we have that presence in advance so that way, there’s no gaps in understanding that this neighborhood is taking safety seriously,” she said.
La Spata said The Point is meeting with the city about a path forward.
As Wicker Park faces the aftermath of another high-profile shooting, on top of a two-year surge in robberies and carjackings, Maass said the negative headlines risk impacting the commercial viability of the neighborhood.
“When people see those nighttime activities, they still associate it to the neighborhood, and then decided to maybe either order that product online or find a new brick and mortar to support,” Maass said.
“There’s a chance that they won’t come back to these businesses again because of that reputation. So it’s important that we not only do that repair work right away, but that we make sure that announcement of safety is as loud and clear as soon as possible.”
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