Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) has made an “urgent request” for more overnight police patrols on the lakefront trail, the downtown Riverwalk and in Streeterville after a 25-year-old Lawndale woman was shot and killed early Sunday.
Reilly has also requested improved lighting, additional surveillance cameras and the overnight shutdown during warm weather months of an underpass at Ohio and Lake Shore Drive used to access the beach, the Lakefront Trail and Navy Pier.
It was near that underpass in the 500 block of East Ohio that 25-year-old Rachel Lemons was shot in the head and killed around 2 a.m. Sunday.
It was the first Downtown homicide reported this year, but violent crime has been on the rise, along with the temperatures.
That includes recent shootings along the Riverwalk, across the street from Millennium Park, at the Red Line station at Clark and Division and at 31st Street beach.
Also last week, a good Samaritan with a broken bottle — and the support of a gaggle of bystanders — stopped a man from escaping after another man was stabbed on a crowded section of North Avenue Beach.
Reilly has apparently had enough.
On Monday night, he fired off an email to his constituents outlining the steps he has taken to prevent the traditional summer surge in crime from overwhelming Chicago’s marquee shopping district along with the Riverwalk, Navy Pier, Millennium Park and lakefront beaches, some of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.
“I recently met with Mayor Emanuel and his staff to make an urgent request for a significant increase in police visibility and beat patrols on this block, the Lakefront Trail, Riverwalk and greater Streeterville between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., especially on weekends,” Reilly wrote.
The alderman noted that the stretch of Ohio Street where Lemons was shot “remains open at all times” and is “proximate to the underpass entry to the Lakefront Trail and is used for access to Navy Pier.”
He said he’s asked the city’s Department of Transportation and the Park District to consider closing that underpass — and possibly others — with a gate from midnight to 6 a.m. in warm-weather months.
“I have also requested … a field survey of the existing lighting in the area, to determine if any upgrades can be made to improve safety and visibility. We are tasking the Office of Emergency Management (OEMC) with surveying this stretch of Ohio Street, the Inner Drive and the Ohio Street underpass for potential (discreetly placed) Police Department cameras to ensure public safety monitoring here on a consistent basis.”
Mike Claffey, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation, had no immediate comment on whether Reilly’s request to close the underpass overnight would be honored.
Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi and Melissa Stratton, a spokesperson for the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said they were “looking into” Reilly’s request for additional police patrols, surveillance cameras and security lighting.
Last week, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson insisted that shootings along the Riverwalk and at 31st Street beach were no reason for summer tourists and everyday Chicagoans to stay away from two of the city’s most enduring attractions.
Reilly is taking no chances.
In his email to constituents, the alderman acknowledged that “violent incidents like this are incredibly rare in the Central Business District” but noted that “any criminal incident in downtown Chicago’s 42nd Ward” must be taken very seriously.
“I promise to keep fighting for additional police officers and patrols to better secure our downtown neighborhoods. I am committed to leveraging all available city resources to improve local safety, like more police cameras, improved lighting, underpass gates or other options,” he wrote.