Reporting Pam Zekman
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CHICAGO (CBS) – With about 1,400 vacancies, the Chicago Police Department has a critical shortage of officers. Perhaps that’s one reason why police sources are upset with police brass assigning a cop to patrol a privately-owned downtown building.
The Better Government Association and the 2 Investigators checked out the tip that infuriates residents and business owners in high crime areas.
“We used to have beat officers,” said Roderick Pierce, the owner of Englewood Hardware. “I don’t know where they went, but we used to have them walk the beats.”
“This area needs policemen on a daily, and an hourly basis,” said Loretta Langford, who lives with her children in Englewood.
In Englewood and other high-crime neighborhoods, residents are begging for more cops on the street.
So, the 2 Investigators and the Better Government Association were surprised to learn the Chicago Police Department has assigned an officer to patrol the privately-owned Merchandise Mart. His name is Joseph Pagan and he is paid $78,000 a year.
The 2 Investigators watched day after day, as Officer Pagan ambled his way around the commercial space at the Merchandise Mart.
“What are you supposed to be doing here?” CBS 2′s Pam Zekman asked Pagan.
“Contact News Affairs,” Pagan said.
A spokeswoman for Police News Affairs said a Chicago police officer has been assigned to the building for the past 30 years. Pagan has been there for three years.
The department said the Merchandise Mart needs a cop to ensure the public safety of approximately 30,000 people who pass through the building a day — over 1 million a year — including commuters riding CTA lines that run into the building.
“His presence minimizes issues of aggressive panhandling, robbery and pickpocketing of commuters entering the building from the CTA,” the spokeswoman said.
But in his three years working at the Merchandise Mart, Officer Pagan has made no arrests.
A Merchandise Mart spokeswoman said the building employs its own staff of about 20 private security guards.
In addition, the CTA has its own security force.
“This may be one of the last vestiges of someone deployed where they’re not really needed for public safety,” said Andy Shaw, President and CEO of the Better Government Association.
“I don’t know the logic of them having a police officer, unless you’ve got some kind of connections, or juice. … But I wish I had that connection down here, where we could have police officers walking the beats of Englewood,” Pierce said of his neighborhood.
Until recently, the Kennedy family owned or ran the Merchandise Mart complex for decades. A Merchandise Mart spokeswoman said they have never asked for a police officer to be assigned there.
“It would seem to me that an office building populated by mostly white collar individuals, who are not super crime prone, probably is not as important as some of the tough neighborhoods in Chicago,” Shaw said.
“Look at the murder rate in this area,” Langford said about her Englewood neighborhood. “It’s ridiculous. Why would you patrol a building, and you haven’t made an arrest, when you can come out here and do a job that needs to be done?”
A spokeswoman for the Chicago Police Department said clout has nothing to do with the assignment of an officer at the Merchandise Mart.
A spokeswoman for the Merchandise Mart said neither the Kennedy family, nor anyone else from the Mart ever asked the city to supply an officer there.