Crime puts La Spata on the spot

Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st Ward) speaks to East Village Association members June 13, 2022.

Weekend gunfire turned a scheduled meeting with Ald. Daniel LaSpata into an hourlong discussion of public safety. Residents pressed the alderman on police response to calls and his own response to violent crime.

The June 13 meeting was streamed on EVA's Facebook page. La Spata stated that the number of aggravated batteries and carjackings had fallen in East Village's two beats but a rise of robberies had been "frustrating." In weekly calls with 12th District Cmdr. Beth Giltmier, La Spata said he pushed for Chicago Avenue foot patrols.

Residents asked if more street cameras would be installed in the ward, noting that early morning shots fired on their block two days before had no police response for more than an hour. La Spata said cameras were funded from the ward's discretionary "menu money" but he would not commit to funding cameras without consulting Giltmier.

Staffing has risen in the 12th District, but La Spata said police can be "inscruitable" about where officers are assigned from day to day. In June, the Chicago Police reported 292 officers in the district. Stafing in the past year ranged from 276 to 290, more per capita than Wicker Park's 14th District. La Spata said he had written a letter at Giltmier's request supporting the increase.

When pressed for a commitment to have the City Council require more specfic reports on shift staffing, he said, "I can meet with our intergovernmental liaison with CPD to talk about how they can be more transparent with that data."

Sam Royko, leader of the Greater West Town Community Coalition, asked if the district had enough oficers. "I don't know what enough exactly means," La Spata said. Royko said the number of sworn officers was about half the historical level, but La Spata refused to agree there was a crime crisis in the ward.

"Where we are is unacceptable," La Spata said. "There's 100% more to be done." He noted continued city funding of a violence interrupters grant program.

La Spata said he has not considered reopening the Wood Street squadroom that closed in 2012, a move 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins called for in 2017.

He offered no agenda on how to address the week's crime activity. "It's more of a collaboration than me telling the commander, 'This is what you're supposed to do," he said, agreeing to summarize the discussion in his newsletter. He said he had communicated with the state's attorney's office "on a relatively frequent basis" but offered no plan to reduce repeat offenses.

"There's a way that I've communicated this that hasn't come across, so to that end there are a lot of different systems in the city that work towards the safety of the public," he said. He claimed his role was "making sure that every city department that has a responsibility for public safety is as effective as possible."

La Spata was also pressed on his support of a redrawn ward map that split West Town. "There were powers at play that constrained this process that make it not what you deserved," he said. "What I want to see for any census in the future is an independent commission that redraws our ward map."

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