Rowdy, rampaging teenagers in Chicago's public places have been a problem for years
CHICAGO - For years now, Chicago residents and police have faced an annual problem: when the weather gets warm, teenagers like to flood public places and behave badly.
Chicago has just undergone an unusually early warm spell, and as if on cue, teenagers rampaged two nights in a row.
On Friday night, hundreds went to 31st Street Beach, running around and lighting a fire. They brazenly chased police cars and smashed the window on a squad car. A 14-year-old was shot nearby.
On Saturday night, hundreds of teenagers went to Chicago's downtown area, which is known as "The Loop." They tried to get into Millennium Park (home of the Bean) and ran up and down Michigan Avenue. They jumped on cars and a CTA bus. One woman told FOX 32 Chicago that people jumped on her windshield, smashed it, and then attacked her husband as he sat inside the vehicle.
By the end of Saturday night, two teenagers had been shot. Chicago police said six juveniles and nine adults were arrested.
These incidents are a lot like previous years. In fact, the Millennium Park curfew – which requires people under 18 to be with an adult – was created in May 2022 because of issues with teenagers behaving badly.
That curfew was put in place by then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot the day after a 16-year-old was killed in front of the iconic Bean in the midst of a night of chaos. On that night, 26 juveniles and four adults were arrested. There were seven guns recovered. Six people were also reprimanded for curfew violations. Two officers were injured.
In April of 2019, 31 young people were arrested along the Mag Mile in what was then called "wilding." Tourists scrambled in panic as a huge brawl broke out in Millennium Park and police say the teens snatched purses and cellphones, and flooded into stores to smash and grab merchandise.
In May 2021, 61 people were arrested when hundreds of young people swarmed into downtown, setting off fireworks, jumping on police cars and brawling. Two officers were injured.
In April 2022, 10 juveniles were arrested after people ran into Millennium Park, jumping over barricades. Eight others were cited for curfew violations.
On Sunday, after the latest incidents, Lightfoot (who is now the outgoing mayor) released a statement saying that good behavior begins at home.
"We as a city cannot and will not allow any of our public spaces to become a platform for criminal conduct," she said in a statement. "Most importantly, parents and guardians must know where their children are and be responsible for their actions. Instilling the important values of respect for people and property must begin at home."
Chicago mayor-elect Brandon Johnson said that while the behavior is "unacceptable," it is also "not constructive to demonize young people who have been starved of opportunities."
"In no way do I condone the destructive activity we saw in the Loop and lakefront this weekend," Johnson said in a statement. "It is unacceptable and has no place in our city. However, it is not constructive to demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities."