CHICAGO (CBS) — Neighbors in several North Side communities are protesting the closing of their local police station as part of an effort by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to balance the city’s budget.
The Ravenswood Community Council is set to hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday at the Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 N. Lincoln Ave., to tell police Supt. Garry McCarthy why the believe the Belmont District station would remain open.
The patrol district is set to be merged with the Town Hall District to the east.
Mayor Emanuel announced last month that his 2012 budget plan calls for the closure of three police district stations – the Belmont (19th) District on the North Side, the Wood (13th) District on the Near West Side, and the Prairie (21st) District on the South Side.
The Belmont and Town Hall districts were actually a single district for many years. When several districts were consolidated in 1959, the old Town Hall police station at 3600 N. Halsted St. served what was then the 19th District, which extended from Lawrence Avenue on the north to Fullerton Avenue on the south, and from Lake Michigan on the east to the Chicago River’s North Branch on the west.
In 1975, a new police station opened at 2452 W. Belmont Ave. But instead of simply moving the district station, the district was split in two, becoming the Belmont (19th) and Town Hall (23rd) districts with Clark Street as the boundary.
Talk of recombining the districts goes back two decades. In 1992, the Town Hall District, then housed in its old station dating from 1907, was among seven districts slated for a consolidation in a plan that was later called off amid protests, the Chicago Tribune reported. It would have been recombined with the Belmont District, with the “modern” Belmont Avenue station as its headquarters.
But ultimately, a new Town Hall District station was constructed just west of the old one, at 850 W. Addison St. That station opened just one year ago.
The move to close the Belmont District has upset neighbors in both districts. On the Uptown Update blog, an unnamed police officer who lives in Uptown recently wrote that once the districts are recombined, “us Uptown residents will barely see a police car. Now, the 2 districts have a total of 18 beats. When consolidated, the new district will have only 15 beats, a loss of 3-6 officers per watch.”
A physically larger district will mean longer police response times when a crime is committed, the officer said.
“Imagine someone shot in Uptown,” he wrote. “The beat car is down on an arrest and the nearest other beat car to respond is at Western and Irving. This WILL happen.”
The Belmont District station also includes the Belmont Area (Area 3) detective unit, which investigates crimes committed from the Evanston boundary south to the Chicago River and from Lake Michigan west to the Chicago River’s North Branch and the North Shore Channel. The station also houses a Cook County criminal branch court, as well as gas pumps and a motor maintenance facility.
Mayor Emanuel has called for merging the five police detective areas into three areas. It has not been announced whether the Belmont District station would stay open as a detective unit headquarters or close altogether.
Neighbors in the Belmont and Town Hall districts are not the only ones upset about the plans. People on the city’s West Side are protesting plans to close the Wood District station, pointing out that the next nearest station is more than two miles away, and crime remains a problem in the Ukrainian Village and West Town neighborhoods the district serves.
Police officials say the station closings will not affect public safety.