It's summertime in Chicago and that means violent crime is on the rise throughout the city. The Lakeview neighborhood, home to the 23rd District police division, is a relatively low-crime area. Nonetheless, it is no exception to the spike in violence, especially when it comes to hate crimes.
That was the subject of a town-hall meeting at the Center on Halsted May 26an event saturated with police brass.
Chicago's top cop, Superintendent Jody Weis, was slated to speak; however, he missed it to attend a memorial service for a slain officer. Michael Masters, Chicago Police Department's ( CPD's ) Chief of Staff, attended instead. Also in attendance were Deputy Superintendent Steven Peterson, of CPD's Bureau of Investigative Services ( BIS ) ; Commander Gary Yamashiroya, who heads Area 3's detective division; Chief Tina Skahill of the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy ( CAPS ) ; Area 3 Deputy Chief Bruce Rottner; and 23rd District Commander Kathleen Boehmer, just to name a few. Bill Greaves, Director of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations' Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues, moderated the event.
Addressing concerns about targeted crimes of violence committed against members of Chicago's LGBT communities, it was announced that a new training program for police officers to better respond to and mitigate hate crimes would begin June 23.
While specific details about the training were sparse, Chief Tina Skahill explained that much of the training would focus on the intricacies of investigating hate crimes.
"They [ hate crimes ] are unique. With this training, our officers will be more aware of their responsibilities when it comes to investigating them. Report writing and follow-up is key to these investigations. And, of course, we want officers to be reminded of how victims feel in these situations," Skahill said.
Regarding a the murders of Brad Winters, Kevin Clewer and Richard MarkleyLakeview victims whose murders may have been motivated by hatepolice reiterated a dim reality. Citing previous meetings, Yamashiroya said, "The Winters, Clewer, and Markley murders have been thoroughly investigated and passed on to the cold case files." Yamashiroya pointed out that, despite the murders receiving a cold case status, he hoped that a "fresh set of eyes" by cold case detectives would offer new leads.
Bob Zuley, a resident who attended the meeting, is a former police officer and member of Chicago's Advisory Council on LGBT Issues. He said he wants to see more active involvement by police investigating gay-related crimes. Speaking to the police on stage, he asked if the department would be open to creating a gay homicide investigation in-service training course for CPD and suburban investigators.
A gay homicide division is not in the works, but police officials said they would consider the idea.
Another issue of concern at the meeting was the case of Chicago police officer Richard Fiorito, who is alleged to have targeted gay and lesbian people for citation and arrest, specifically for false DUI charges. He is also accused of using anti-gay slurs. Fiorito, a veteran cop, is at the center of 37 civil lawsuits as a result of the aforementioned allegations.
Police officials offered little comment on the matter, saying only that the investigations are ongoing, that Fiorito is still on the police payroll, and that he remains on administrative detail within the 23rd District.
Other news of the day focused on measures to curb violence in and around the Halsted and Clark Street nightlife corridor.
As reported by Windy City Times, the area has seen a spate of violent crimes during the summer months, especially late at night. Last summer, after an employee of a popular Boys' Town nightclub was brutally assaulted while walking home from work, there was a heated Town Hall meeting at the restaurant, Nookies' Tree. At that meeting on August 5, 2009, WCT asked 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney to respond to rumors about graveyard shifts being short-staffed in the 23rd Police District. Tunney replied, "I'm comfortable with the resources we have here." [ Note: At the time, sources within the police department, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told WCT that they were short-staffed during late-night shifts. ]
Whether or not Tunney's position has changed since then, there are some changes on the way to how police patrol the area.
"Our bike patrol begins this Thursday. We've added more foot patrol officers. In addition to our regular units, we'll have our midnight tactical teamsthat's one sergeant, plus ten officerson patrol, and we'll continue to have neighborhood walks," said Bruce Rottner, Area 3 deputy chief.
Perhaps the underscored message of the day was this: Report everything you see.
"Our officers are only as effective as possible when you report crimes and suspicious behavior. Reporting every incident helps us serve the community better. It helps us target hotspots. It helps with our planning. It also helps with increased awareness and prevention," said Skahill.