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Shiller Comments on Uptown Violence... Finally

By Kate Gardiner in News on Aug 28, 2009 7:40PM

"Uptown: Chicago's Most Entertaining Neighborhood"

We've been sitting on our hands the past few days, trying to resist calling/emailing/texting/sending passenger pigeons to Ald. Helen Shiller's 46th Ward office (again) for an answer to the weeks-old question "what, exactly, is going on in Uptown?" She finally posted a press release yesterday, which we've been reading... and rereading... for substance all day. It's lacking. But it does finally address the Aug. 13 Uptown Riot.

An altercation broke out between a couple dozen young men at the intersection of Sheridan and Leland in Uptown. There were no guns or knives used, but bottles were thrown and there was yelling and attempted fisticuffs. Most of the event was videoed by a neighbor.

Within minutes of receiving the 911 call, officers arrived and the youth dispersed. There was one arrest, one police officer suffered a minor injury and there was a little property damage. No one else in the area suffered any injuries. Because of the subsequent media frenzy, this incident has come to symbolize safety in Uptown. In general, the recent discussion about crime and violence in our community has been emotional, high-pitched and polarizing.

We have our own ideas about Uptown's troubles: overzealous tax increment financing for Wilson Yard, have coupled with the troubled real estate market to reduced property tax income for the ward; meanwhile acts of violence in the 46th Ward have been much more visible - and much harder to corral, if the recent, widely-circulated online videos are to be believed.

However, in running the numbers for the 46th Ward to see how badly Shiller was doing this year, we were surprised to discover that Uptown was in keeping with the citywide trend - crime was down in her ward, compared to last year. According to, for the time period around the riot, (Aug. 1-19), police reports of violent crime - burglary, robbery, assault and battery - have actually dropped by more than 28 percent. The data suggests there were 101 violent crimes last year - and 72 this year. This puts Uptown below even its 2007 statistics.

That said, Shiller's response to her angry constituents was a non-confrontational post on her website yesterday afternoon. Shiller wrote that the Aug. 13 near-riot has brought the frenzied attention of the media to her ward - and that she spends more time, "and resource fighting crime and violence than dealing with any other issue." Whether or not that's true isn't something that we can prove without actually talking to the alderman - and analyzing the way she budgets her time, but if the statistics are to be believed, crime is actually down in Uptown.