Discussion on the homeless dominates CAPS meeting

By B. David Zarley | Staff Writer

Published July 5, 2018

Loop residents’ concerns about homeless people dominated the most recent CAPS meeting for the 1st District, held June 14 in the Park Room at 130 N. Garland Court, in a display that, at times, raised the eyebrows of the police officers in attendance.

At the monthly meeting, one resident complained that emergency dispatchers did not take his calls of homeless people sleeping in the park after 11 p.m. seriously.

The citizen objected to homeless people being given a free pass to litter, sleep in the park after hours, urinate and defecate.

“Don’t treat them special because they are homeless,” the person said.

Others raised concerns about homeless populations on Lower Wacker Drive and in Grant Park. Another asked advice on what she should do when her housekeeper regularly needs to clear “droppings” from the surrounding area of her residence. Sergeant Anthony Dombrowski said homelessness itself is not a police issue.

“Homelessness is a deep-seated social issue,” Dombrowski said. While police officers will respond to individual crimes, the presence of the homeless, in and of itself, is not one.

“We, as a city, are never going to outlaw homelessness,” Dombrowski said.

When it came to the topic of street performers in the area, a concern commonly raised at CAPS meetings in the Loop, residents seemed pleased with a decrease in the number of performers out on the streets.

Dombrowski chalked up concerns about street performers to the “clumsy” way in which the law is written. He explained that because the law defines loudness based on a “conversational tone,” it is too subjective for policing.

A new influx of young officers may be partially responsible for the slowdown in resident complaints, and stationing officers outside the Art Institute at lunch and closing time—when performers are most likely to congregate—has helped as well.

All around, Dombrowski praised the district’s new officers.

“It’s re-energizing our district,” Dombrowski said, noting quality of life concerns the Loop residents often raise are not the most exciting events for veterans.

In addition to the new officers, from June 30 to July 8, the city will be placing 60 detective school students as uniformed officers at fixed posts from Wacker to Roosevelt to enhance public safety during the busy holiday season.

The recent fencing off of “the triangle” at Lower Wacker and Wabash was praised as well, with residents saying that it had reduced the homeless population. According to Dombrowski, the land will be utilized by CDOT.

Overall, the New Eastside—beat 0111— saw a slight increase in crime from the last period.

As usual, theft dominated the arrests, with retail theft and purse-lifting among the most common crimes. The officers recommended that phones be kept out of hand while walking around— and not in the back pocket—and that purses remain closed and watched closely.

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