Phillips Up Close: Patrolling Chicago-Lake
day’s first call came in ten minutes after Patrolman
Lucas Peterson reached his Chicago-Lake beat at 11:15 am:
report of a man breaking into a panel truck. Peterson hit
the siren and cut his way through traffic, crossing into the
residential streets south of Lake.
Two workmen were waiting for him on the sidewalk by the truck.
From inside it came the banging and cursing of an agitated
man trying to get out.
The workmen said
they’d been making repairs in a nearby house. Looking
down on the curb from the window one of them saw a man climbing
into the truck. They ran down from the second story and pulled
down the back door, trapping the man as he foraged through
their equipment. They’d also been robbed the night before,
they said, a thousand dollars worth of equipment stolen.
Peterson and another officer who answered the call opened
the door and found the man gagging in a cloud of spray from
the fire extinguisher he’d been using as a battering
ram. The officers hauled him out and arrested him, confiscating
a small knife and a large bottle of schnapps.
“I see this individual all the time,” said Peterson
after the arrest as he cleaned his hands with an alcohol wipe.
“A guy with a hard life who goes around making life
hard for other people.”
Peterson has been on the force for nearly three of his 23
years. He has the frame of a high-school linebacker. With
his crew-cut blonde hair and fair skin, he looks a bit like
the rapper Eminem and said the resemblance has been noted
on the streets. He has worked the day shift at Chicago-Lake
since January. He thought the beat assignment was a good break
from answering 911 calls on the 7 pm to 3 am “dog shift.”
The day unfolded much the same as
it began. Traffic stops, a car accident, on and on.
Most of the shift he spent rolling slowly up and down the
streets, eyeing the gang members hanging out or walking by.
“I give them a look, they give me a look,” Peterson
said. “It’s a game we play every day.”
Yet Peterson well understands that his regular presence often
must do the bulk of the work in discouraging crime. He said
he and his partner made 63 arrests this January, but only
between one-in-six and one-in-eight of them resulted in a
prosecution. The felonies get the attention. The misdemeanors
“With PC (probable cause) arrests, we can hold them
48 hours. Most of these gang bangers see that as a shower,
a night’s sleep and free meals. You can’t threaten
them with arrest. On the street that just has no value because
they know they’ll be back on the same corner in a couple
Peterson knows little about the Phillips Partnership, the
Chicago-Lake Crime Workgroup or the Phillips Police Probation
Partnership. He said he wishes he could make better connections
with the business owners and residents on his beat.
“I think outreach is great, but the way it goes out
here, I stay very busy dealing with the so-called criminal