May 24, 2024 - News

City, police prep for Memorial Day weekend

Photo of a large presence of police cars on a street

Chicago police respond to a call near Adams and Wabash on May 29, 2023. Photo: Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Mayor Brandon Johnson's administration is gearing up to address violence and safety this Memorial Day weekend.

Why it matters: Typically, the three-day weekend serves as a barometer for whether the police and the mayor's office's policies will be effective in preventing violent crime as temperatures climb.

Context: Shootings tend to go up around this time because of warmer weather and holiday gatherings.

  • Last year's Memorial Day weekend was the deadliest in seven years, as 12 were killed and 48 wounded by gun violence.
  • In 2016, 71 people were shot.

Yes, but: Under Johnson, shootings and homicides have fallen. The administration points to the success of deeper community outreach programs instead of just policing.

What they're saying: "Our plan goes beyond law enforcement. It's place-based. It's comprehensive," mayoral chief of staff Cristina Pacione-Zayas tells Axios.

Between the lines: Homicides are down, but robberies and assaults are up.

The latest: At a Streeterville town hall Wednesday night, alders and police met with concerned citizens about the plan to curb groups of teenagers from gathering late at night along Michigan Avenue.

  • Police say they are still enforcing the 10pm curfew for teenagers, while also asking Streeterville businesses to adopt stricter policies, similar to Water Tower, which doesn't allow anyone under 18 to enter without an adult.

State of play: This will be the first summer without "scarecrow policing" on Michigan Avenue.

  • The practice of having squad cars sit in the medians with flashing lights on was stopped by new police chief Larry Snelling in January, although he said the department could employ the tactic as needed.

Zoom out: Beyond downtown, neighborhoods bear the brunt of summer violence. Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) has represented the Back of the Yards neighborhood for nine straight Memorial Day weekends.

  • "You can only reinvent the wheel so many times," Lopez tells Axios. "Unless you are going to start arresting people or doing sweeps on Friday to get the corners cleared, you are going to see violence."

The intrigue: Lopez also says would-be criminals are aware of staffing issues at CPD. "They will take full advantage that our police department is down employees and holding back on overtime."

  • "I'm fearful we are not taking this seriously."

What's next: This weekend, the Office of Emergency Management (OEMC) will activate an operations center to coordinate security efforts among the police, fire and city agencies.

  • The mayor's office is expected to announce its weekend safety plan Friday afternoon.
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