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West Town Neighbors Rally In Wake Of Rash Of Carjackings, Demand Answers From State's Attorney's Office

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Residents of communities in the West Town area rallied together Thursday, saying enough is enough when it comes to carjackings.

As CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported, neighbors not only gathered and met, but also raised questions and expressed concerns directly to some of the key prosecutors from the Cook County State's Attorney's office.

Many residents said they do not feel safe simply getting out of their vehicles at times, because carjackings keep happening.

A quick glance down Milwaukee Avenue shows there is no shortage of people walking or cars moving. Yet despite how populated the area is, some who call the West Town communities home are uneasy.

"We need our public officials to tell us what's going on; to tell us what's working and find out a better way to move forward," said Sam Royko.

Royko, the youngest son of late iconic Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko, founded the Greater West Town Community Coalition after his girlfriend was carjacked earlier this year in an alley off Milwaukee and Ashland avenues.

"It's really important that we do it as a community," Royko said. "It's not just happening in our area. It's happening in all of Chicago."

WEB EXTRA: Tracking Chicago's Carjackings

Across Chicago, we have seen 1,512 carjackings so far in 2021, compared with 1,413 in all of 2020.

The West Town community area – which also includes Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village, East Ukrainian Village, River West, and East Humboldt Park – is seeing the brunt of the crimes, with 106 carjackings to date.

That is the second highest figure for all 77 Chicago community areas. It follows only Austin on the West Side with 115.

"People are convicted. They get put out on bond, or electric bracelets, or whatever they are - and they're still committing crimes," a community member said at the meeting Thursday evening. "Help us understand what you're going to do to stop that."

That was the overwhelming concern at the community meeting. Chicago Police and representatives from the Cook County State's Attorney's office tried explaining how and why some suspected offenders are released until trial.

"We can only hold a minor in custody for up to 30 days pretrial," said Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Matt Howroyd. "Now that's the legislation. That's not a decision made by the State's Attorney."

And while the crowd wanted more immediate solutions to the rise in crime, for now, they will wait to see if the trend slows down.

"We're trying to get as many people together to have as loud of a voice to make sure that we're heard and make some positive change," Royko said.

Chicago Police told residents at the meeting that they are using all available resources to truly try to get ahead of all the carjackings.

In addition to deploying a carjacking task force, police are also installing license plate readers in an effort to detect all the stolen vehicles that are rolling on the streets in the West Town communities.

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