On Their Own... But Not Alone

The flash mob is back.

In July of 2011, we took note of “dozens of young thugs attacking people and cleaning out stores in broad daylight” in downtown Chicago — often along the “Magnificent Mile” shopping district.

In 2012, such headlines faded from view. The city logged 506 murders, but most of them took place where tourists don’t tread. Few outside Chicago noticed.

In 2013, on the first weekend of decent springtime weather, they’re back.

“I put my head down between my legs so they would stop beating me in the face,” a 27-year-old woman tells the Chicago Tribune, “but they were trying to pull my face up and hit me more.”

She was riding the elevated train Saturday evening when 11 teenage girls boarded and started stirring up trouble. “They ripped out chunks of my hair,” the woman said, “and I’ve got a black eye and bruises on my face, and all over my back and shoulder.”

Police managed to track down the girls. This time. “The 11 teens told police they had agreed on Twitter to meet downtown,” the paper reports.

A few blocks away, about a half-hour later, another group of teenagers started bumping into other people on the sidewalks, blocking sidewalks, blocking traffic and fighting among themselves. One witness said as many as 400 teens were roaming around. Police managed to arrest 28.

Two months ago, Chicago police stopped responding to “nonthreatening” crimes — burglary, car theft, simple assault.

The standard is: If the offender has fled and no one’s in immediate danger, an officer won’t be dispatched. Someone will take a report over the phone.

A year ago, the city closed two police stations.

If it feels as if budgets are tight, they’re only getting tighter: Somehow, the city has to scrape together $700 million by 2016 to shore up the police and fire pension funds.

Chicagoans can be forgiven for feeling as if they’re on their own. At least they’re not alone.

A year ago this week we noticed the city of Passaic, N.J., looking to bill insurance companies every time the city responds to a fire or a car crash — up to $1,000 for a fire call.

“The federal government,” explained U.S. News & World Report, “can [and will, we add] shift difficult spending choices to state governments, which can [and will] then shift the burden to local governments. Local governments are left with no choice but to cut services.”

Best regards,

Dave Gonigam