|CPD Eighth District Commander James O'Donnell at microphone.|
His view was given in response to a woman who expressed exasperation with "these talentless kids who beat on buckets and tie up traffic" at Archer and Pulaski.
The commander smiled, laughed and kiddingly asked, "Can I defer that question?"
"Here's the thing," he then said in seriousness. "When we talk about prioritizing as far as police work, can we arrest [bucket boys]? We can, for obstructing traffic.
"But the problem is this," O'Donnell continued. "When we arrest juveniles, we have to do a case report, an arrest report, we have to contact a parent or guardian, we have to wait for youth officers to process them; so for a minor offense such as that with the bucket boys, [a police officer] can be tied up for three or four hours.
"It is an offense, it is a nuisance," he added. "Most of the time, what we do--and I've done this myself--is tell them to get off the corner. If you say it stern enough or more or less tell them that the next time you come back, you're locking them up, then they go off the corner.
"But we have to prioritize our resources," the commander continued. "What's more important? Would you rather see the police lock these guys up for a minor offense like that---sometimes or most times these cases aren't even going to be referred to court, they call it a 'station adjustment' where the parent or guardian is notified and [the juvenile] is essentially told, 'Don't do it again.'"
Despite his assertion that police under his command will not routinely arrest bucket boys obstructing traffic, he added that Eighth District residents should still "call on those, call every time and we'll do what we can--and of course, if [the bucket boys] get a smart mouth on them or don't want to listen to us, we do make an arrest.
"But would we rather have our officers out in the neighborhood, looking for burglars, robbers, car thieves, people graffitiing garages and property, or in the station for three or four hours for somebody out there more or less panhandling by beating the buckets?" he asked. "Which would you prefer? You tell me."
Before the Q and A, O'Donnell shared a handful of statistics relating to reported crime in Archer Heights.
He said that major index crime--"murder, rape, robbery, auto theft, felony theft and burglary"--were down 24 percent citywide in 2013 over the previous year, and that the Eighth District shared in that with "a fantastic 2013."
The commander added that in the first half of 2014, Archer Heights saw a 52 percent reduction in robberies, a 15 percent reduction in motor vehicle thefts, and a 13 percent overall drop in crime, over the first six months of 2013. He added that burglaries are up 37 percent, a figure he said he is "not happy with, but it is what it is."
He added that there has been an eight percent increase in arrests and a 46 percent increase in streets stops made by police in the neighborhood.
O'Donnell also made a strong pitch for people to keep their eyes and ears open and call 911 whenever they see a crime in progress, a crime that just occurred, or any suspicious circumstance that may indicate criminal activity.
"It's sort of aggravating," he said, when he hears people say they thought about calling 911, but "didn't want to bother the police."
"I'm telling you: call, call, call," he said. "Let us determine if it's nothing or if it's something."