Late afternoon shadows lengthen in Chicago's McKinley Park near the William McKinley memorial at South Archer Avenue and South Western Boulevard, a target of vandals in the early morning hours of November 25, 2020.

Cops on Hunt for McKinley Statue Vandals as Violent Crime Wave Ebbs

Published December 15, 2020

Investigations continue into the recent attempt to topple the statue of President William McKinley at his memorial in the northwest corner of McKinley Park, said Chicago Police Department 9th District Officer Jason Sollis during the December 9, 2020, online meeting for Beat 912 of the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS).

 
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In the incident, which took place around 4 a.m. on Wednesday, November 25, vandals unsuccessfully tried to pull down the statue, likely using a vehicle, and left a strap tied around the statue before they fled. "It looked like people left in a hurry," Sollis said, noting that investigators had discovered other items the vandals also left behind.

 
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Police were considering the vandalism, which also included spray-painted slogans, as possibly connected to a protest at the memorial the month before, Sollis said, as graffiti on the statue from November 25 referred to that protest.

Replacing McKinley

The protest on Friday, October 16, organized by the Ke Ali`i Victoria Ka`iulani Hawaiian Civic Club with Aloha Center Chicago, advocated renaming McKinley Park to Kaʻiulani Park after Princess Kaʻiulani, the deposed indigenous leader who fought against annexation of Hawaii, which McKinley supported and signed into law in 1898. The protest also advocated replacing the statue of McKinley with one of Kaʻiulani.

Chicago Police Department Officer Jason Sollis CAPS Beat 912 meeting 20201209Officer Jason Sollis shares community policing info at the CAPS Beat 912 meeting on December 9, 2020, conducted via online video conference.The Princess Kaiulani Statue in Chicago Facebook page, which was set up shortly before the protest, calls for these changes and "to establish an appropriate platform for Hawaiian ideals shared in a safe public setting in an open and welcoming community space located in Chicago."

The Aloha Center of Chicago has presented a series of performances at the McKinley memorial, including shows in 2017, 2018 and 2019 for the McKinley Park Farmers Market, a summertime McKinley Park Advisory Council program that was discontinued in 2020.

Sollis said the police patrol assigned to the memorial after the November 25 incident has been moved to other duties, a requirement given limited resources that are further constrained by the COVID-19 pandemic. "They're not guarding the statue at this time," he said.

 
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When asked about video evidence of the vandalism or related vehicles from the heavily surveilled area, Sollis called it "one of the tools being utilized in the investigation."

Alley Garage Carjacking

Sollis also shared crime statistics and counts over two months for Beat 912, which covers the majority of the McKinley Park neighborhood. For the period from October 14 until November 11, police recorded 1,120 calls for service, noted 37 incidents of shots fired and made 14 arrests, Sollis said. For the period from November 11 through December 9, police recorded 937 calls for service, noted 12 incidents of shots fired and made 15 arrests.

Surveillance video depicts the robbery on Saturday, October 24, 2020, in an alley off the 3500 block of South Seeley Avenue. 

Sollis highlighted some of the most notable crimes during this time, including a series of three violent robbery incidents on October 20 and 21. A mid-afternoon carjacking of a resident from his residential garage in the alley on the 3400 block of South Marshfield Avenue took place on Wednesday, October 21, Sollis said.

 
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Witnesses described three male offenders between 18 and 20 years old, one of whom tripped the optical sensor on the garage door before it closed, Sollis said. The offender then entered the garage, demanded car keys and battered the victim when he refused. After seizing the keys, the offender drove off with the car, damaging a neighbor's garage while fleeing.

Series of Robberies

Sollis said it was always safest to hand over property and not resist in a robbery. "Nine times out of ten, people are just looking for the property," he said. "It’s better to hand over the property, and hopefully that’s all they’re looking for, and they’re on their way."

Chicago Police Department Officer Chris Wilde CAPS Beat 912 meeting 20201209New District Coordination Officer Chris Wilde introduces himself at the CAPS Beat 912 online meeting on December 9, 2020.Another incident on Tuesday, October 20, saw an off-duty police officer foil an attempted robbery, Sollis said. A bicyclist in the area of West 35th Street and South Ashland Avenue was accosted around 7:40 p.m. by three males exiting a tan or grey Chevy Tahoe SUV. The off-duty officer, who happened to be passing by, noticed the robbery in progress and intervened. After the offenders pummeled the officer a couple times — "nothing serious," Sollis said — they fled in the SUV without the victim's property.

Other robberies included an armed robbery in the 3600 block of South Paulina Street by two males, about 15 or 16 years old, at 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday, October 20, when a 51-year-old woman was pushed down while she was carrying groceries. The offenders grabbed her purse and fled in a black Jeep, Sollis said.

Ruse Burglaries

The Dunkin' donut restaurant at West 32nd Street and South Ashland Avenue was held up at 12:47 p.m. on Saturday, October 24, by a handgun-wielding robber who fled in a possible silver SUV, Sollis said. As previously reported here in the McKinley Park News, a local teen-ager was robbed on Saturday, October 24, as he walked home from the Shell gas station at West 35th Street and South Ashland Avenue, Sollis said.

 
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The suspects from this incident, which was captured on video, have possibly been apprehended in a North Side arrest of a robbery crew using similar tactics, also in a dark-colored SUV, Sollis said.

 
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A series of ruse burglaries, including two in McKinley Park on November 12 and 15, were the subject of a community alert sent out in November. As reported here in the McKinley Park News, thieves were able to enter homes by posing as workers, then distract victims while their homes were robbed.

"Don’t let people into your house without verifying exactly who they are," Sollis said. "Tell your neighbors. Check for IDs."

Fewer Incidents, Rising Violence

Crime data analysis conducted by the McKinley Park News revealed patterns of criminal behavior in the neighborhood for the four-month period of August through November 2020. Compiled from City of Chicago and Chicago Police Department data, including the Crime Reports and Notable Arrests available to McKinley Park News Subscribers, the analysis looks at the specific areas of police Beats 912, 911 and 924 that overlay the McKinley Park Community Area and the Central Manufacturing District.

McKinley Park Crime Reports
  Total
Reports
Violent
Crimes
Domestic
Violence
Firearms
Violations
Aug. 2020 68 9 10 6
Aug. 2019 74 5 2 3
Sept. 2020 66 9 5 6
Sept. 2019 75 7 8 1
Oct. 2020 72 9 7 6
Oct. 2019 73 6 7 2
Nov. 2020 60 3 10 8
Nov. 2019 70 8 7 1

During this four-month period, the City of Chicago listed 266 incidents of crime for McKinley Park, which is nearly a nine percent reduction from the same period in 2019. However, violent crimes such as aggravated assault and battery, homicide, and armed robberies increased in the neighborhood more than 13 percent over the same period in 2019. 

Crime incidents related to domestic violence rose 25 percent for the August-to-November period in 2020, compared to the same months in 2019. Firearms-related crime reports jumped more than 450 percent for these four months in 2020 compared to 2019, with many incidents tied to arrests of firearm violators and numerous reports of reckless firearm discharge.

At the CAPS meeting, Sollis acknowledged a jump in violent crime this fall that was now seeming to settle down, as was noted in crime statistics Sollis provided for Beat 912. This is supported by a falling number of crime report incidents for November as compared to September and October, and a much lower rate of crime reports so far for December.

New Community Policing Initiative

Sollis also introduced Officer Chris Wilde at the CAPS meeting as part of the new District Coordination Officers (DCO) program that Chicago police are rolling out following a pilot in the 25th District. The DCO program dedicates officers to serve specific areas on an ongoing basis so they can learn about the community and find solutions to ongoing issues.

Wilde, who is assigned to focus solely on Beats 912, 913 and 914, said the program is "more community-oriented policing, instead of the traditional way: Bring the problems to us and figure out the best way we can all solve the problem with [police] resources and the resources of the community."

Chicago McKinley Park CAPS Beat 912 2021 beat meetings posterThe 2021 poster for CAPS Beat 912 shows the upcoming beat meetings for the next year.“These officers are going to help us to try and solve some of these problems in an alternative means," Sollis said, including recurring issues tied to homelessness, mental illness, addiction and other ongoing calls for help.

Holiday Toy Drive

Sollis promoted the 9th District toy drive, which solicits gifts to share over the holidays with local children in need. New, unwrapped toys and gifts can be dropped off 24/7 through December 21 at the Christmas tree in the lobby of the 9th District police station at 3120 S. Halsted St., Chicago, Sollis said.

Any neighborhood family that needs help with presents can benefit from the toy drive, Sollis said. "If somebody in the community knows a family that might be in need, we will definitely try to accommodate," he said.

CAPS in 2021

Sollis said that the meetings for CAPS Beat 912 would continue January through November in 2021, at the standard schedule of the second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all beat meetings are planned to take place via live video conferencing until further notice: Anyone interested in participating can send email to Jason.Sollis@chicagopolice.org to request information and sign up.

The next CAPS Meeting for Beat 912 is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, January 13, 2021.

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