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Businesses worry recent violence could sway shoppers not to come downtown


By Tara Molina

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    CHICAGO (WBBM) — Heading into the weekend, Chicago shopping districts are bracing for trouble and calling on Mayor Lori Lightfoot for help. Store owners say violence last weekend could signal to shoppers not to come downtown anymore and affect everyone’s bottom line.

Over the Fourth of July weekend in Chicago, massive crowds caused chaos, injuring two officers and leading to more than 60 arrests.

“We are really lucky no one was murdered in the loop,” said Ald. Brian Hopkins.

Coupled with the violence this summer, the viral images are not great tourism videos for the city.

“We do have a national perception that’s taken hold that Chicago may not be the safest place to visit right now,” said Robb Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. “We need to address that.”

Karr is officially asking for Lightfoot’s help, requesting a reevaluation of what it is going to take to make the area safe because images of chaos are not inspiring a family dinner or date night downtown.

“You’re not going to get 55 million plus visitors a year to the city if they’re concerned about safety,” he said.

They’ve been tracking issues and concerns from business owners since the downtown deployment plan that kept officers stationed across the downtown district after two rounds of looting and unrest ended in back in June.

“We’ve seen organized retail crime shoplifting patterns continue through the city,” Karr said.

But it’s not just the city’s retail district feeling the impact. CBS 2 talked to a downtown restaurant owner who is still choosing to close up early, because he says locals don’t want to come out late anymore.

“They just don’t want to deal with it,” said Dan Alberga of Bella Luna Bar & Pizza. “They just don’t feel safe.”

CBS 2 has tracked vacancies in the city’s prime shopping districts for months. And without a safety plan some say we could be tracking more soon.

“We do hear the concerns about whether they’re going to stay whether they’re going to go,” said Karr.

A look at the most recent numbers in this police district shows those concerned have a point. We found criminal sexual assault, robbery, theft and motor vehicle theft is all up. With crime complaints, overall, up in the same week and month timeframe this past year.

The Chicago Loop Alliance also weighed in on this, saying they are also pushing the city for more resources downtown:

“Safety is of the utmost importance to Chicago Loop Alliance, and we continue to work closely with the Mayor’s Office, Chicago Police Department, and other City agencies to push for adequate resources downtown. We also continue to advocate for a public safety approach that addresses the root causes of crime and poverty in our city. We know that the Loop must be a safe place in order to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic and thrive into the future, so these issues are a top priority for our organization.”

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