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Safety Concerns Growing After Opening Of Panera Cares In Lakeview

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Concern about safety is growing in one Chicago neighborhood and some residents there say a unique restaurant may be to blame.

CBS 2's Marissa Bailey takes a look at the impact it's having on Lakeview.

Panera Bread reopened as "Panera Cares" on June 21. The new concept meant that customers would pay what they could. If they couldn't pay anything, the meal was free.

Sally Figliulo has lived in Lakeview for 12 years and says that since Panera Cares opened, she feels unsafe.

"It's just kind of scary," she said. "A crowd of guys won't let you through a sidewalk. That's invasive."

But that's not all.

It seems businesses around the Diversey and Clark location have made visible changes. One business has recently added a gate.

Trash was also seen piling up on a stoop just a few feet from the café.

Bruce Beal has lived in Lakeview for 12 years as well. He says the neighborhood is safe and a few outspoken neighbors are just worried about property value.

"I don't see any more of that now than I saw before at all," he said. "Before it was all relatively affluent neighbors and now it's a mix of affluent neighbors and folks that aren't as affluent."

Ald. Tom Tunney says he's received some complaints from neighbors but the Panera Cares location is evolving.

"It's kind of a live-and-let-live corner," Tunney said. The Panera Cares concept "is a work in progress, and I know Panera is concerned. They want to make it successful for the neighborhood and for the company."

Panera Bread area director Jeff Harman agrees.

"The concerns of the community are my concerns," said Harman. "If they're feeling it, we want to understand it, and we're committed to investigating as thoroughly as we can and then take the steps to eradicate it."

Chicago Police have met with community leaders about the concerns.

They say they're enlisting the help of the Department of Family and Support Services to assist homeless in the area.

Police say there is no way to prove an increase in crime in the area is directly affected to the opening of the store.

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