Nov 28, 2023 - News

Downtown Chicago tries to attract shoppers with more security

cop on magnificent mile

Police cars with lights flashing have become a fixture on the Magnificent Mile, in part to remind visitors of the expanded police presence in the popular shopping area. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Business leaders are touting improved downtown safety in an effort to bring people back to the area this holiday season.

Why it matters: Downtown is still hurting from high office vacancies driven by the pandemic, along with a lingering perception of danger after unrest in 2020.

By the numbers: Chicago's office vacancy rate hit a record 23.7% this fall, Crain's reported, as businesses continue to shed office space and transition employees to remote work.

Yes, but: A new Harris Poll reported by Crain's found that only about 53% of Cook County respondents said they feel safe downtown.

What's happening: Robust downtown policing, better maintained surveillance cameras, more security guards, and a new type of non-shattering glass for storefronts have helped put the incidents of 2020 "in our rearview mirror," Kimberly Bares, CEO of the Magnificent Mile Association, told WBBM.

  • "For some folks, no amount of me or anyone else saying it will convince them. They just have to come down and see it with their own two eyes."

The big picture: Chicago saw the nation's second- and third-highest levels of organized retail theft in 2019 and 2020, but dropped last year to seventh — tied with Sacramento.

What they're saying: Bares credits state legislation and cooperation with retailers often used to resell the stolen goods, in addition to the arrests of Tacarre Harper's crew, linked to hundreds of thousands of dollars in thefts on the Gold Coast.

  • "They've been put away for 10-12 years, and when that crew was caught and stopped, we saw the number of those kinds of burglaries drop precipitously," Bares told WBBM.

Reality check: Last month the Louis Vuitton store on Michigan Avenue was robbed by a smash-and-grab crew.

  • And year-over-year stats on overall crime in the 18th District, which covers the Mag Mile remain, mixed.are touting improved downtown safety in an effort to bring people back to the area this holiday season.

Why it matters: Downtown is still hurting from high office vacancies driven by the pandemic, along with a lingering perception of danger after unrest in 2020.

By the numbers: Chicago's office vacancy rate hit a record 23.7% this fall, Crain's reported, as businesses continue to shed office space and transition employees to remote work.

  • Meanwhile, the Magnificent Mile district still packs a big economic punch. Last year it saw $3.8 billion in consumer spending, and it accounts for 17% of all Chicago jobs, according to the MMA.

Yes, but: A new Harris Poll reported by Crain's found that only about 53% of Cook County respondents said they feel safe downtown.

What's happening: Robust downtown policing, better maintained surveillance cameras, more security guards, and a new type of non-shattering glass for storefronts have helped put the incidents of 2020 "in our rearview mirror," Kimberly Bares, CEO of the Magnificent Mile Association, told WBBM.

  • "For some folks, no amount of me or anyone else saying it will convince them. They just have to come down and see it with their own two eyes."

The big picture: Chicago saw the nation's second- and third-highest levels of organized retail theft in 2019 and 2020, but dropped last year to seventh — tied with Sacramento.

What they're saying: Bares credits state legislation and cooperation with retailers often used to resell the stolen goods, in addition to the arrests of Tacarre Harper's crew, linked to hundreds of thousands of dollars in thefts on the Gold Coast.

  • "They've been put away for 10-12 years, and when that crew was caught and stopped, we saw the number of those kinds of burglaries drop precipitously," Bares told WBBM.

Reality check: Last month the Louis Vuitton store on Michigan Avenue was robbed by a smash-and-grab crew.

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