Suspicious package found outside Oprah's Harpo TV studio

A suspicious package did not blow up Friday morning after is was found outside Harpo Productions Inc. on the Near West Side, police said.

The item did not explode and no one was hurt, according to a Monroe District police officer at 8:52 a.m., who said police were clearing the scene.

About 6:20 a.m., a security guard found a dark-colored backpack with wires hanging out of it in a flowerbed outside the studio at 110 N. Carpenter St., according to police News Affairs Officer JoAnn Taylor, who was citing preliminary information.

The district officer did not immediately know whether the backpack had the capacity to explode and police said studio was not evacuated.

The police Bomb & Arson Unit was sent to the scene but a detective did not have further information.

The studio is where Oprah Winfrey records her television show.

from Sun-Times


Street signs honor slain officers

Almost 39 years to the day after two Chicago police officers were gunned down while on foot patrol in the Cabrini-Green housing project, the street outside the nearby police station was dedicated to their memory Saturday.

Street signs bearing the names of Anthony Rizzato and James Severin were unveiled at a ceremony attended by Police Supt. Jody Weis, members of their families and a crowd of former colleagues.

Mary Schlaak, Severin's niece, told attendees outside the station at 1160 N. Larrabee Ave. that the memorial will make it clear the deaths still matter.

"Thank you for understanding that 39 years later this loss of two 18th District cops who died in the line of duty, it's still meaningful and still relevant," Schlaak said.

Rizzato and Severin were on patrol near Seward Park on July 17, 1970, as part of the department's "Walk & Talk" program they volunteered for, when shots rang out from a nearby high rise, fatally injuring both.

Two men were sentenced to 199 years for the murders and are still in prison.

Weis said the two officers were heroes and that Chicagopolice remain targets now.

"It's not that different today," Weis said at the ceremony. "People try to murder our officers. I don't know what that says about society, but it says our mission isn't done."

A memorial to Rizzato and Severin stood on the spot where they were shot, but had to be moved recently because of a construction project, according to Near North District Cmdr. Steve Georgas.

Retired Chicago Police tactical Sgt. Ed Wodnicki remembered the two as extremely brave officers at a time the Near North District was a dangerous place.

"It was a combat zone, and they were combatants," Wodnicki said.

from the Trib


Two cops shot in leg while executing warrant

Two narcotics officers were shot, both in the leg, while executing a search warrant on the Far South Side early this afternoon, officials said.

The officers were shot by someone inside the home near East 112th Place and South State Street where they were serving the warrant, a source said, adding that both officers are doing fine.

They were taken in good condition to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, according to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

No other details were immediately available.

from the Trib


Absenteeism and class struggle in Streets & San

"The one-laborer truck was born out of necessity. It was something we developed because I can't afford to budget for 30 percent relief. If we did, it would cost the city $19 million to have two men on every truck to cover that relief."
An interesting article from the Sun-Times highlights how everyday absenteeism cuts into workplace productivity and management planning; in a sense -- class struggle pushing forward capitalist innovation.

On the one hand, Laborers negotiated disciplinary amnesty for its workers, which is a really interesting concession. On the other, it looks like they will be complicit in enforcing new workplace rules:
At a news conference with Mayor Daley called to warn of 431 layoffs affecting two hold-out unions, Phillips said he and Byrne had agreed to work together to implement "some new work rules that I'm very excited" about.
One can only hope the workers will be as excited and respond in kind.

City booting more cars

When Chicago's City Council decided to lower the threshold for slapping a metal boot on cars, you had to know there would be an influx of cash going into city coffers. After all, that was half the point.

An investigation by the Sun-Times shows the program has been a huge success, as far as city accountants are concerned. Since April 22, the city has mailed a whopping 183,293 seizure notices and booted nearly 3,500 cars.

Good news for the city; bad news for you.

Now, to get the boot, all you need are two unpaid tickets older than a year to get the boot. The city has even put $1.5 million behind new technology to bolster their booting abilities. They now have 26 vans equipped with electronically controlled cameras that can check 900 license plates per hour, searching for bootable cars.

If your car is booted, you'll have to pay all unpaid parking violations and fines to get it removed. And if your car also gets towed, you'll also have to pay those pesky towing and storage fees.

A Revenue Department spokesman said they're out to "maximize collections" for the city.

from NBC

I'm unsure of the success rate, this pamphlet claims to have information on how to beat the boot. In particular, this suggestion sounds enticing:

That means, of course, that an anarchist thug with a penchant for trouble-making (or a wily hustler with an eye for a quick profit) could easily dismantle and remove the boot from some poor innocent scofflaw's illegally parked car, take the thing home, bust the lock off and pay a less-than-scrupulous locksmith to make up a new key -- a key that would instantly unlock every boot in the city.


Prison escapees still at large

Authorities believe the three inmates escaped Sunday from the maximum-security prison in Michigan City through underground tunnels and pipe chases.

Grand Beach Police Chief Dan Schroeder said authorities were maintaining a heavy presence in the town because they don't know if the escapees still are in the area.

"This is a large area and there's all different kinds of places they can hide," Schroeder said about the heavily wooded community.

The escapees could conceal themselves in the woods, in the tops of trees, in a ditch or a creek, behind homes or on the beach, Schroeder said. "Hiding (in Grand Beach) is really not that much of a trick actually," Schroeder said.

Many residents of Grand Beach -- including those who commute from Chicago for weekend and summer stays -- said they weren't scared. They continued to keep their doors unlocked and taking walks up and down the quiet streets. Many residents use golf carts to get around.
from the Trib


Suburban teens go on vandalism spree

Mount Prospect police today announced the arrest of one person in a string of vandalism incidents on the north side of the village, and said more arrests are possible.

Sean M. Dudczak, 22, of the 1100 block of Boxwood Drive in Mount Prospect was arrested Thursday and charged with four counts of criminal defacement to property, police said.

Those four charges involve graffiti to a Jewel grocery store, Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, AMC movie theater and a Steak and Shake restaurant, according to a news release from the Mount Prospect Police Department..

The department has been investigating dozens of criminal defacement to property cases over the past month, mainly on the north side of the village, and anticipates making further arrests, Police Chief John Dahlberg said in the release.

Dudczak faces an Aug. 3 court date in Rolling Meadows court on the four charges, which are Class A misdemeanors, police said.

from the Trib



Tenant charged with killing landlord and burning his body

A Chicago man accused of using garden tools, an ice scraper, a BB gun and a pipe to allegedly beat his landlord to death before setting his body on fire, is eligible for the death penalty, Cook County prosecutors said Sunday.

Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil denied bail for Martin Vega, 27, who was renting an apartment from William Hallin, 67, in the two-story home Hallin owned in the 5000 block of South Talman Avenue in Chicago's Gage Park community. Vega is charged with first-degree murder.

Around 6 p.m. Friday, Hallin went to collect rent, and Vega didn't pay up, Assistant Cook County State's Atty. Emily Stevens said. Hallin then noticed Vega had a dog in his apartment, which was not allowed, officials said. Hallin told Vega he would have to move out, and a bloody fight ensued, officials said.

Vega allegedly pushed Hallin down stairs then delivered blows to Hallin's head and body with various weapons and tools, Stevens said in court. Vega allegedly took Hallin to the basement, where Hallin began to cry and beg for his life, Stevens said. To shut Hallin up, Vega put a shirt in his landlord's mouth, then beat his skull with a lamp, Stevens said.

Vega then choked Hallin with a rope and put him on a rug in the basement, Stevens said. He threw gasoline from a lawn mower on the rug and on Hallin, then lit the rug on fire, Stevens alleged.
from the Trib


Four more cars torched on North Side

Four cars were torched in a Lincoln Square parking lot early this morning, Chicago police said. It was the second time multiple cars were set on fire in the city over the last eight days, but the two incidents did not appear related.

At 3:40 a.m., a woman heard her dogs barking and looked outside to see four vehicles aflame across her rear alley in a parking lot in the 5600 block of North Western Avenue, Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Laura Kubiak said.

There were no known injuries and the fires were contained to the four vehicles, which included a Jeep, a Pontiac Grand Am, a Ford Contour and a Buick. It was not known if there were other cars in the parking lot at the time, Kubiak said.

The Chicago Police Bomb and Arson Unit is investigating.
from the Trib