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'We can't arrest ourselves out of this,' says Chicago alderman after attack at known 'problem corner'

Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

He said the corner has long been a place where people gather, but there was some success in keeping people away after a camera was installed nearby.

“In the past two weeks, it’s just gotten out of control again. And the problem is when you can get them to leave one corner they just go to the next corner,” he said.

When Cappleman noticed a table on the sidewalk, he told the man it didn’t belong there and he was taking it. But as he carried it away, turning north on Racine, he said he saw at least eight people sprawled out on the sidewalk. He said he would not have confronted a group that large, but one of the men immediately saw him with the table, and it was too late.

One of the men whom Cappleman said he recognized from previous arrests in the neighborhood looked at him and said, “That’s my table.”

He said the man grabbed the table and two other men approached. Between the three of them, Cappleman said they had dozens of combined arrests.

Cappleman said his husband called 911 as he continued to hold onto the table. That’s when one of the men put his arm around Cappleman’s neck. At some point, the table broke in half and Cappleman said his husband believes he was struck with a part of the table.


“He thought they were hitting me with it, that they hit me repeatedly. I had so much adrenaline going, I honestly can’t tell you,” Cappleman said. “He could’ve had a knife. ... That’s not the way I want to die.”

Despite that, Cappleman wants the man to get help, if he’s interested in it. He said his ideal outcome would be that after his release from jail the man gets placed in a structured sober living home that could help him kick his addiction — if he’s ready to try.

“We can’t arrest ourselves out of this,” Cappleman said. “For most humans, for most living creatures, we respond to negative and positive reinforcement. It can’t be all negative, but it can’t be all positive. We have to find that right balance. And we know we’ve found the right balance when it produces the intended result. For this guy, we’ve not found that right balance. I think he’s getting too many carrots and no sticks.”


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