Chicagoans enjoy the warm weather and outdoor dining along Division Street in West Town as Illinois moves into the Bridge Phase – the final step before a full reopening under Phase 5 – on May 14, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

WEST LOOP — A group of officers will be dedicated to overseeing clubs, bars and other nightlife spots in the Near West (12th) Police District — and a similar patrol specifically for the West Loop may not be far behind.

The new unit will consist of six officers and one sergeant, all focusing on criminal activity along entertainment strips. Several focus areas include Greektown, parts of Taylor Street, the University of Illinois Chicago and part of Division Street, said Sgt. Mike Karczewski, business, licensing, and special events supervisor for the 12th District.

The Near West district includes parts of West Loop, West Town and Pilsen.

The officers will focus on reducing robberies, break-ins and thefts, Karczewski said. Officers also will monitor groups loitering during late-night hours and ensure venues like nightclubs, theaters, pool halls and others comply with the terms of their Public Place of Amusement licenses.

The officers will work 8 p.m.-4 a.m., though it’s not yet clear which days they’ll be on patrol. The department is currently hiring for the roles and hopes to have the unit up and running in the next 30 to 90 days, Karczewski said.

West Town and the Chicago skyline as seen from above on July 11, 2022. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

The information was shared during a quarterly commercial corridor meeting with the West Central Association, a city delegate agency in the West Loop.

“We always try to give the business owners the easiest or the best way to try to fix the problem before we cite them. We don’t want to cite business owners … but if we have to, we will,” Karczewski said.

Ideally, at some point, the West Loop will have its own dedicated entertainment unit, but until then the unit’s patrol areas will be spread throughout the district, Karczewski said.

The new entertainment unit comes after a newly formed neighborhood group in Fulton Market announced plans to hire private security for the area.

In May, the Fulton Market District Improvement Association, headed by some of the area’s biggest movers and shakers, asked for $800,000 from neighboring businesses and property developers to fund its own security.

The police are aware of the group’s efforts but said Tuesday there were no updates as to where the private security plan stands.

The Fulton Market sign. Credit: West Central Association

The patrol announcement comes after a section of Division Street and other parts of Ukrainian Village have experienced high-profile shootings and public safety issues this winter.

Early Jan. 1, Austin McAllister was shot and killed outside the Lyon’s Den Hookah Lounge, 2123 W. Division St., while working as a bouncer.

That evening, someone fired shots near the Mariano’s grocery store at 2021 W. Chicago Ave. in Ukrainian Village, police said. No one was harmed.

That came less than two weeks after Darian Neal was shot and killed on the grocery store’s parking deck Dec. 19.

The incidents occurred after months of neighbors complaining of loud music from cars, fights and other disturbances on Division and nearby. Division Street is the border between the 12th and 14th police districts.

Robberies, Thefts Decreasing In West Loop

Karczewski announced updated crime statistics for the West Loop, citing data for the area bound by Grand Avenue, the Eisenhower Expressway, Ashland Avenue and the Kennedy Expressway.

In the past 90 days, the neighborhood has recorded a 22 percent decrease in robberies and a 32 percent decrease in felony thefts when compared to the same time period last year, Karczewski said.

The West Loop experienced an increase in shootings, with two shootings so far in the last 90 days compared to one during the same time period last year. There have also been 47 gun arrests so far this year, he said.

The past 90-day statistics from May 1 to Aug. 8 included the following:

  • 15 batteries
  • 24 burglaries
  • 105 motor thefts
  • 31 robberies
  • 141 thefts

Overall, car thefts have dropped 40 percent, burglaries are down 7 percent and thefts down 5 percent.

Police credited the recent decrease in thefts and burglaries to the arrest of two separate people charged in connection to 25 burglaries. One of the two is believed to be connected to at least 60 break-ins, Karczewski said.

Reporter Quinn Myers contributed to this report.

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