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Safety on minds of Wrigleyville business owners ahead of Cubs home opener

Wrigleyville prepares safety game plan
Wrigleyville prepares safety game plan 02:38

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Baseball is back – and businesses in Wrigleyville are gearing up for the crowds.

Opening Day is like Christmas Eve for a lot of businesses around Wrigley – you can feel the energy. Right now, they are stocking up for an anticipated record number of people heading to the ballpark to see the Cubs take on the Milwaukee Brewers Thursday afternoon.

But as CBS 2's Marissa Perlman reported Wednesday night, safety is also on the minds of business owners and fans.

The night before Cubs opening day, Ari Strauss – co-owner of Sluggers, 3540 N. Clark St., was in the trenches with his team.

"This bar, this neighborhood transforms overnight – and it stays that way for six months," Strauss said.

They spent the day before the home opener stocking shelves, folding T-shirts, and talking tradition.

"When I was high school or junior high, I'd walk around and sell these on my arm," Strauss said as he folded a pile of T-shirts, "because my father, who founded this place, was trying to find ways to put me to work."

Starting Thursday, that work begins again. Strauss expects 4,000 people to come through his doors.

"The Cubs are in town for a homestand. They're going to play six games straight," Strauss said. "That's kind of like a Saturday six days in a row."

And leading up to this week, business representatives met with Town Hall (19th) District police to talk about safety through the season.

"It's a teamwork effort to just kind of combat what's going on," Strauss said. "It's not just here. It's the whole city."

The Town Hall District stretches from Lawrence Avenue on the north to Fullerton Avenue on the south, and from Lake Michigan on the east to the Chicago River's North Branch on the west.

According to the most recent data, crime complaints in the Town Hall District over the past year. There were 63 robberies reported compared with 49 in the same time period last year, and 20 sexual assaults compared with nine last year.

"Be aware, and also make sure that you're checking in with each other," said Maureen Martino, executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce.

Martino said both police and private security will be out in force around Wrigleyville Thursday.

"You're going to see plenty of people out there - especially for Opening Day," Martino said.

Some security is funded by local taxpayers – others by the businesses themselves.

"The more eyes around town, the better," Strauss said.

But with just hours to go until baseball is officially back, community leaders want you to know there is a safety game plan for game day.

"Don't be afraid to come out. Like, we're all here to, want to a good time and to enjoy our city. This is a great city," Strauss said. "We just need the Cubs to play some good ball too."

Businesses are expecting to open their doors early for Opening Day and stay open late.

Again, the chamber of commerce says even with cool temperatures expected Thursday, they are preparing for record numbers of fans at the field and at nearby businesses.

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