Chicago's Magnificent Mile is dying from an increasingly familiar cause

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

The “Magnificent Mile” in downtown Chicago has long been a popular tourist destination and a prime source of revenue for the city, featuring nearly all of the major chain outlets as well as exclusive boutiques. Or at least it used to be, anyway. By the time the BLM protests/riots were finished, the places that weren’t burned down and/or looted were boarded up. The problem is that the famed shopping district still hasn’t made a comeback more than a year later. As CBS Chicago reports this week, many of the biggest, high-profile stores like Disney and Macy’s have left permanently and no new employers have attempted to move in and replace them. The reason is the same that we’ve seen in other cities since the riots began. Decriminalization of “smaller” crimes like theft, lax enforcement, and bail reform laws have led to an endless series of organized shoplifting and robbery sprees. The bare shelves on the Magnificant Mile aren’t the fault of “Bare Shelves Biden” (for once). They’re just being picked clean. On top of that, too many locals and visitors feel that the city simply isn’t safe now.

Chicago Police have issued a formal warning after continued robberies on and around the city’s Magnificent Mile, at a time when stores continue to leave while others fight to stay in business after big pandemic hits.

CBS 2’s Tara Molina reports that retail leaders say the problem is so bad, that new business is hesitant to move in. That hesitation stems not only from the continued retail theft and robbery issue here, and across the city, but the perception that the city isn’t a safe place to be right now.

A stretch of North Michigan Avenue remains vacant and locked up–telling of the struggle on the city’s Mag Mile. Former tenants like Macy’s and Disney are gone, and there are no plans for a new tenant for the old Macy’s space at the Water Tower Place anytime soon.

The Chicago PD has issued a “formal warning” about property crime in the area, but that doesn’t seem to be slowing the thieves down. Generic descriptions of suspects being “young men in their teens” haven’t managed to put anyone in jail recently as the organized robberies continue. As in other cities, many merchants are either unable to obtain insurance against theft or are paying crippling premiums for it. All of these conditions contribute to so many shops remaining shuttered for now or entirely closed for good.

This is really no different than the pattern we’ve been observing with drug stores and convenience stores in the San Francisco area. These same factors recently introduced us to “the Prince of Thieves” in New York City. And while the responsibility for crimes always falls upon the people who commit them, Chicago is another city that has gone a long way toward inviting these problems on itself.

To be clear, the gang members and other criminals were around long before the current situation began to unfold. Organized crime of various sorts has always taken root in larger American cities. But we used to have the motivation and wherewithal to chase the gang bangers and violent felons into the shadows and maintain a general semblance of order. That’s no longer the case in too many cities, including Chicago.

Perhaps the activists who have sought what they refer to as “police reform” actually had good intentions, but the results have been obvious and horrific. Those lobbying to change bail laws and sentencing guidelines were quick to note that we incarcerate a lot of people in the United States and minorities are disproportionately overrepresented in prison populations. But they also tended to fail to admit that a lot of people in prison are there because they did something to deserve it and society needed to be protected from them.

At some point, the municipal government of Chicago, along with its law-abiding residents, will have to admit that the experiment has failed and enough is enough. The city need’s its police department to be back on the job in full force and with the enthusiastic and public support of the city government. And those police need to be able to go back to locking up the bad guys and knocking a few heads around when required. I’d be willing to bet that the public will now support such measures and reward the elected officials brave enough to take a stand.