Community policing Officer Jason Sollis of the Chicago Police Department's 9th District updates CAPS Beat 912 meeting participants on neighborhood crime statistics during the group's online call on Wednesday, September 8, 2020.

Pandemic Stymies Fight Against McKinley Park Gang Houses

Published September 14, 2020

Slowdowns in local court proceedings due to the COVID-19 pandemic have stalled action against McKinley Park neighborhood gang houses, said 9th District community policing Officer Jason Sollis and 12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas on Wednesday, September 8, at the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meeting for Beat 912.  These court delays come at a time of rising neighborhood concern about recent violent and high-profile incidents in the neighborhood, Cardenas said at the meeting, which was conducted online as a live video conference.

 
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"We cannot get to court right now," Cardenas said. "I have in my possession potential gang houses that we need to target again. Wood Street, which had been cleared of gang activity, seems to have come back."

"From the police end, I've heard the same thing," Sollis said. "We have troubled building officers in the district. The whole COVID thing, it's slowed down their progress."

 
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Neighborhood Crime Stats

Sollis detailed many of the recent reports of crime in the neighborhood, primarily covering the period of August 12 through September 7. During this period, police made eight arrests in Beat 912 and received 1,236 calls for service and 42 reports of shots fired.

Two of the reported violent crimes were aggravated batteries with a gun, Sollis said. The first took place at 9 p.m. on Saturday, September 5, in the 1800 block of West Pershing Road: The victim was in a vehicle when he heard gunshots and felt pain; he relocated to the parking lot at the Jewel-Osco grocery store at 3644 S. Archer Ave., where he met a friend who took him to Mount Sinai Medical Center, Sollis said. The victim suffered a graze wound to the head.

The ShotSpotter system, which covers Beat 912, detected 18 rounds related to this incident, Sollis said. "From the radio traffic, officers were saying they believed they were rifle rounds," he said.

Sollis also provided information about a shooting reported around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 6, in the 2000 block of West 35th Street. A victim was approached by a man who fired a gun, striking him one time in his thigh, Sollis said. "Officers were unable to find any trace of a crime scene at said location," he said.

First-Degree Murder and Arrest

Sollis also touched on the homicide of Brighton Park resident Anthony Cluchey on Wednesday, August 26, in the 3300 block of South Western Avenue. Sollis noted that Cluchey and his mother had been identified as participants in a fight in the Jewel-Osco parking lot several days prior, and that the incidents might be connected.

 
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A week prior to that, Cluchey was connected to a fight taking place in the vacant drug store parking lot at 3798 S. Western Ave., Sollis said. Both this fight and the homicide occurred in adjacent police Beat 911, which overlaps the west edge of the McKinley Park neighborhood.

As previously related in subscriber-only Crime Reports published in the McKinley Park News, Cluchey has a history of Southwest Side arrests between 2015 and 2018, including for burglary and parole violations related to street gang contact.

This homicide is still under investigation, Sollis said.

 
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At the time of the meeting, Sollis was unable to relate any connection to or information about the nearby arrest on Saturday, September 5, of Ethan Bustamante on a charge of first-degree murder. As previously written in subscriber-only Notable Arrest reports published in the McKinley Park News, Bustamante was arrested on Saturday, September 5, in the 2400 block of West 34th Street and then booked into Cook County Jail, with a court date set for Friday, September 25.

"Community Policing Success Story"

During the CAPS meeting, Sollis provided details on two recent robberies, including one at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 13, in the 2200 block of West Pershing Road. A victim reported being robbed of his rings and wallet after being accosted by an unknown female and two Hispanic males who pushed him to the ground.

The second robbery of a neighborhood vendor of ice cream paletas on Tuesday, August 25, resulted in apprehension of a suspect thanks to the community's help with identification, Sollis said. Two offenders approached the ice cream vendor, and after asking for ice cream, pushed him to the ground and went through his pockets while brandishing a gun. Published images from surveillance video resulted in community members reaching out to the 9th District to identify a suspect, Sollis said.

 
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"Detective [Robert] Vahl was extremely thankful to ... all the community members who helped seek the offender out," Sollis said. "This is a community policing success story. It's a direct representation of what makes McKinley Park such a great, strong neighborhood."

Street Racers

Participants in the Beat 912 CAPS meeting also brought up the ongoing issue of street racers congregating in parking lots at the Rivers Edge Plaza shopping center at 3145 S. Ashland Ave. Sollis reported he had not received complaints coming in about the drag racers over the reported period of August 12 through September 7.

However, on the night of Sunday, September 13, numerous reports were broadcast on police radio channels of a large gathering of street racers at the shopping center parking lot, and related disturbances. "A couple hundred cars here," the police radio broadcast stated. "Nothing much we can do."

 
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Also discussed at the CAPS meeting were concerns about recent reported and alleged crimes occurring as related to two unconnected neighborhood businesses — a lingerie shop and a recording studio — including the May 2, 2020, slaying of drill rap artist Eric Chapman Jr.

Rising Crime and Fear

12 Ward Alderman George Cardenas CAPS Beat 912 meeting 2020090812 Ward Alderman George Cardenas participates in the CAPS Beat 912 meeting on September 8, 2020.Both Cardenas and Sollis mentioned changed circumstances in local policing and crime: Sollis has been unable to attend to many of his 9th District community policing duties while he and others were called into 12-hour shifts, he said, and CAPS meetings now have to take place online due to the pandemic.

Cardenas acknowledged the recent gang-related shootings on South Honore and South Wood streets in the 3600 to 3800 blocks, and vowed to target the known gang activity there. "We're beset by a bunch of incidents that looks like a lot of crime is hovering around McKinley Park," he said.

"There’s a lot of apprehension," Cardenas said. "Before the pandemic, McKinley Park was on target to be one of the safest neighborhoods in the city."

Future CAPS Meetings

Sollis noted how Beat 912 CAPS meetings will continue online during the pandemic, and that participants are individually vetted and invited due to past problems with hacking and griefing in Chicago Police Department online video conferences.

Those interested in CAPS Beat 912 can reach out to the 9th District community policing resources by calling (312) 747-8227 or emailing Jason.Sollis@chicagopolice.org.

COPA Protest

Also in neighborhood policing news, a protest to advocate for the adoption of the Civilian Police Accountability Council ordinance is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. in McKinley Park on Monday, September 14, as part of the People's Ward Night event.

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