Skip to content

Peter V. Bella Posts

Criminal oddities

PHOTO: PV Bella

“You got keys?” one of them asks before agreeing to hold the victim’s pizzas so the man can dig his keys out of his pocket.

“You good?” a carjacker asks, returning the pizzas after the man surrenders the keys.

“I’m good,” he replies.

“All right, thank you,” replies one.

“Thank you, sir,” says another.

“You betcha,” replies the victim as he takes a long drag from a cigarette, then walks away.” (CWBChicago)

The above conversation was a carjacking by very polite criminals armed with handguns and a rifle. This was one of some oddball crimes in this crime-ridden city.

What started as a vehicle theft in Rockford turned into another oddity. The vehicle that was stolen is owned by a funeral parlor. There was a dead body in the rear. Chicago Police recovered the van on the Southside. on the Southside. The body was not in the van in the van. The body was discovered on the street over two miles away.

In another strange crime, a man returned home after running errands. He saw his garage door open and a stranger standing in the garage. The victim did what any self-respecting Chicagoan would do. He grabbed a sword and held the burglar at sword point until police arrived. The police found the victim’s power tools in the burglar’s bicycle basket. (CWBChicago)

In a court case, a public defender described the crime as an act of poverty. The judge who stated the attorney was insulting poor people upbraided the lawyer. The attorney apologized.

Our mayor entered the fray of odd criminality with her solution to prevent robberies. Street vendors in Pilsen and Little Village are being victimized by armed robbers. Our illustrious mayor’s solution was to tell them not to make cash transactions and use other transaction services. She is so disconnected from the city’s communities she does not realize these vendors, mostly immigrants, probably do not have checking accounts.

Most of the other candidates for mayor had no real solutions to crime. Their fairy tale ideas would put more people in danger. Most of the candidate, including Lightfoot, are delusional when it comes to crime and public safety.

The Chicago Police and Cook County Sheriff’s departments are partnering to help citizens to prevent auto and catalytic converter thefts. Police districts will have events to distribute steering wheel locking devices and information on how to protect your vehicle from being stolen. The two departments are working with manufacturers to register people for the Tracked Vehicle Program. You can read more about that in the link below.

As car thefts spike in the Chicagoland area, the agencies offer motorists steering wheel locks, tracking registration and helpful hints on how to keep property secure.

The story behind the movie Heat

Chuck Adamson was a retired Chicago Police Sergeant of Detectives, an actor, scriptwriter, and television producer. He was involved in writing episodes of Miami Vice, and movies Thief, A River Runs Through It, Top Cops, The Stand, Quiz Show. He was the creator of the television Crime Stories, starring his friend and retired Chicago Police Officer Dennis Farina. He consulted on many other film projects.

I came across this video, which outlines how Heat was based on one of Adamson’s more famous cases. The video tells the story better than I or anyone else can.

Chicago is a city of change

IMAGE: PV Bella

“Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,

   Bareheaded,

   Shoveling,

   Wrecking,

   Planning,

   Building, breaking, rebuilding” (Chicago/Carl Sandburg)

Carl Sandburg published his poem Chicago in 1914. It was a perfect description of the city at that point in history. He would write several similar poems about his adopted city. The city has not changed much. Chicago is still Sandburg’s “City of big shoulders.”

Most of the smokestacks are gone, as well as most of the famed stockyards. There is no longer a haze over the city from industrial pollution. Various strides in technology and science changed how we produce and build. We can build faster and safer than in the past. Even in winter, as long as the weather is not arctic, construction goes on. Buildings go up.

If you live in Chicago, you cannot be nostalgic about places. Chicago is always razing, building, rebuilding, and repurposing structures.

Former Finkl Steel/IMAGE: PV Bella

Some jobs still require brawn and sweat. That will never change unless or until robots replace people doing dirty work. Construction, destruction, and new construction are cyclic in Chicago. Chicago is still a city of hard work and hard workers. They build, raze, and toil in grit and dust. Some jobs still create the grit and dust of the past. That will never change.

IMAGE: PV Bella

There is still a sign Chicago is a blue-collar construction city. Look at all the cranes reaching to the sky being used to erect tall buildings. Construction sites are all over the city, from small projects to high-rise skyscrapers.  People with hard hats and tools abound.

There is noise. Clanging, crashing, causing, banging, whirring, sawing, and engines running, to name some. Those noises are the sound of money. Money for landowners, developers, architects, designers, construction material companies, tradesmen, and laborers.

IMAGE: PV Bella

Living in Chicago is living with change. We learn to shrug our shoulders and get used to it. Things change so fast that there is no time for nostalgia. Fortunately, there are photographs, leaving a historical record of the past. Preservationists fight many losing battles to keep buildings, small and large, from the wrecker’s ball.

Residential neighborhoods change on a smaller scale. Where single-family homes or small apartment buildings once stood, McMansions replace them. This is ongoing across the city. Neighborhoods gentrify and lose their personality to new inhabitants. Destruction, hole digging, foundation laying, and construction of multimillion-dollar homes are the norm in some neighborhoods. Sometimes life long residents are forced to move out because of economic changes, including higher and sometimes unaffordable property taxes.

Some call all this destruction and construction progress. Others call it greed. Yet, it is an ongoing fact of life in Chicago. Since the city was a trading post on a muddy swamp, people built, destroyed, and rebuilt. It was and is a never-ending process. Most of us shrug our shoulders and get used to it, except for road construction. That is something we never get used to it. It is more infuriating than unplowed streets in the winter.

Fairytale Chicago

Image: PV Bella

Chicago fairy tales should begin with- “If elected, I promise…” Of course, there will be no happily ever after. No happy ending. Chicago politicians make big, bold promises, then break them. Take Mayor Lightfoot, for example.

Lightfoot released a 30-second fairy tale commercial, with a narrator touting her accomplishments to keep the public safe from violent crime. It is all gobbledygook. She failed and failed miserably in keeping the citizens of and visitors to this city safe. Her handpicked Police Superintendent, David Brown, is an abject failure. He does not know what he is doing, where he is at, or why he is here.. Every plan, strategy, scheme, and deployment failed. Since day one, he failed the citizens of this city

Lightfoot is hyping what she describes as a “Whole of government” approach- whatever that means- to criminality. Violent crime is rampant in everyone of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods and citywide on public transportation. We cannot believe the city’s numbers, as they can be massaged to make it look like crime is down. It has been done many times before.

Perception used to be more powerful than reality. In Chicago, perception is reality. People do not feel safe. The mayor does not make the public feel safe. People see the truth in their neighborhoods.

Some mayoral candidates promise to fire Brown on day one. Who ever they appoint will have an almost impossible job of correcting all of Brown’s failures while trying to get a handle on the day to day.

All the numbers and statistics Brown spits out to a press corp. that drools and slobbers over data and data analytics is pure garbage if there is no perception of safety by the public. If people live in fear, even if those numbers are spot on, they will not believe them. People are living in fear.

Even rideshare drivers avoid certain areas after dark, which is why there is surge pricing. They do not want to get carjacked, robbed, or injured. I talk to drivers all the time. Many times, they tell me I am their last ride for the day. More people I know are trying to get Concealed Carry Licenses. Some were the last people I thought would own a gun, let alone learn how to use one.

Postal workers are being robbed by armed offenders on their routes, something almost unheard of in the past. CTA personnel are being victimized. Some El lines are no longer safe to ride. Worse, just by being out and about, anyone can be the unintended victim of a violent crime by being hit by a stray bullet(s) from a pray and spray shooter.

Lori Lightfoot is in trouble. She alienated citizens across this city with her antics. She will try anything to hold on to the Fifth Floor of City Hall, even if it is dishonest or outright false, like the video. The one thing she will not do and should do is fire David Brown and send him packing back to Texas.

Time ran out for Lightfoot. The election is at the end of February. There is no way she can turn the public safety ship around in time. All she can do is hope. Hope enough people believe her lies. Hope some brutal weather comes in and stays around for a while. Hope the criminals give her a break and lie low until after the election. She hopes there is not a murder that will attract national attention and shed a national spotlight on her failures. Hope election turnout is low, favoring the incumbent.

One of her opponents should air their own fairy tale. “Once Upon a Time In Chicago.” Like Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in America and Once Upon a time in the West” movies,. They can show the gritty good, bad, and ugly of this once great city.

All we, the citizens, can hope for, is to get through each day without being the victim of a violent crime. Those odds fluctuate by the hour and day. Once upon a time Lightfoot was elected as a mayor and historic figure. If reelected, she promises…

Hitting 70

IMAGE: PV Bella

Today, I start my 70th orbit around the Sun. Much to the chagrin of many, I am still alive and kicking. I plan to stay that way. The only thing that changed is I am older, crabbier, uglier, more tired, meaner, and more miserable and ornery than usual.

8760

526,200

31,557,600

The above numbers are the hours, minutes, and seconds in one year. If my calculator is right, I lived 616,200 hours, 36,824,000 minutes, 2,209,032,000 seconds and counting. It is amazing. While I am no longer 175lbs. of rompin, stompin, dynamite, I am older, wiser, smarter, and in a pinch still modestly dangerous- as long as a shock does not bring on the debilitating, heartbreaking, widow and orphan making, heart-a-stroke.

Life has been good, bad, and ugly. As a priest friend once said, life is messy. Looking back, the bad or ugly times were not as bad or ugly as I perceived them. They were just messy.

I survived an almost thirty-year career as a Chicago Police Officer without being killed, catastrophically injured, fired, indicted (Came close), or imprisoned. Being a Chicago Police Officer was the best job in the world. No two days were alike. Over fifteen years ago, I retired. I do not miss the circus. I just miss the clowns.

There are always new things to keep me occupied. I am a constant learner, bookworm, photographer, urban wanderer, foodie, cook, and whatever else my over-curious mind leads me to.

So far, I survived two flu seasons, the COVID pandemic and Chicago’s violent continuous crime pandemic. I take all the precautions to stay well and safe. I do not have to enjoy living like this. I must do it. Self-survival is the first and highest law of nature. I am a survivor.

I am fortunate to have friends and acquaintances from all walks of life, cultural and social strata. The number is not large and gets smaller every year. I am good with that. My friends and acquaintances are people I enjoy spending time with, no matter how often or seldom I see or talk to them.

I do not tolerate anyone. Toleration is a lie. People tolerate unruly pets and impish children. I accept people for who and/or what they are. I treat people the way I want to be treated. The older I get, the more open-minded I become.

I try to believe most people are good, and they do what they can to right the wrongs in my city. Unfortunately, I do not believe most of our politicians are good. If they were, Chicago would be a paradise instead of a shooting gallery. Good people must demand better from our elected officials.

I try to stay occupied and sometimes make a few bucks. Sometimes my curiosity gets the best of me, and I go down hours-long rabbit holes. In the spring, I will have an exhibition of my street photography. The date (s) and time (s) will be announced as the exhibition nears. It will be my first exhibition. I am humbled that I was invited to do this.

I am not the same person I used to be. Life is about change, constant learning, and understanding. Books and schools are not the sole repositories for knowledge. Knowledge is never static. Learning is a lifelong process. Understanding is just as important as knowledge. Learning and understanding are evolutionary processes. When you think you know it all, you are wrong. You are stuck on stupid.

Every morning, if I open my eyes, I thank the Great Comedian for another day above ground. I get another chance to watch the sunrise and set. Another 24 hours on this spinning orb.

No one makes it off this orb alive. I know one day my time will come. Since we apparently die in alphabetical order, I will be near the top of the list. I will have no regrets since I already rued my life’s commissions and omissions. I will not go quietly. I will go kicking and screaming. Hell, I may as well go out the same way I came in and lived my life.

Life is short, no matter how long you keep breathing. Live, love, laugh, and eat the damn sandwich.

The Walking Man will be laid to rest

IMAGE: PV Bella

In his poem, “Chicago,” Carl Sandburg titled Chicago “The City of Big Shoulders.” The reference was to the hard working tradesmen and laborers who built the city, making it the industrial center of the nation. Chicago is also the city of big hearts. Before crowdfunding, those big hearts were mostly anonymous acts of kindness.

Several years ago, a toddler died from injuries caused by child abuse. Her mother was in jail, charged with the crimes. There were no other relatives, so her body sat in the morgue. The detectives handling the case decided the child should have a proper funeral and burial.

The detectives and other police officers kicked in some money. They approached a funeral home. The funeral director listened to the story and donated his services. The detectives used their money to buy a cemetery plot. They held a wake for the child, a funeral procession, and a graveside service. None of this made the news. They did it in near anonymity. The detectives and funeral home did this because it was the right thing to do.

Joseph Kromelis, the Walking Man, died last month from injuries caused by being set on fire while he slept in the underground Wacker Drive. His body laid in the Cook County Medical Examiner’s morgue, awaiting cremation and the yearly public burial for indigent and unidentified people.

After a series of donations, he will be laid to rest at St. Boniface Cemetery. The Rev. Scott Donahue, president of Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, spearheaded the effort to reach family and coordinate a private burial.

Sullivan Funeral Home donated cremation services. Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Chicago donated a niche at St. Boniface Cemetery. Kromelis, the Walking Man, was famous in his own way. He was a piece of Chicago. It is only fitting he had a proper burial and to rest here.

Once again, people stepped in to do the right thing. They asked for nothing in return. Acts of kindness happen many times in this city. We see people starting crowdfunding pages for crime victims or people who experience tragic circumstances.

The people who coordinate and donate do not do this for publicity or fifteen minutes of fame. They do this because it is the right thing to do. Every day people in this city perform acts of kindness, big and small. They help those in need. When no one else will, they step in to help total strangers.

Joseph Kromelis was homeless, but he was not unknown. He was an icon just for being himself, the Walking Man. He had celebrity status in the Near North Side of the City. Every day, no matter the weather, he walked, making his rounds. His shoulder-length gray hair and mustache made him recognizable. He was photographed, talked about, and pointed out to tourists.

Joseph Kromelis suffered a horrific crime. He died as he lived alone. He did not die forgotten.

The New Year begins

Image: PV Bella

The holidays are over. Yesterday marked the last official day of the season, as most people had the day off. Now, we move forward in a new year, hoping things will be better than last year or we will be better people. Too many of us forget that part of life is trying to improve ourselves.

It is a gray, pouring rain, foggy, and depressing day. I wrote this in my office away from home, my favorite saloon. I am sat at a window and watched the on and off rain pour down. Someone played a lot of Blues songs on the jukebox. It matches the depressing weather. All the usual suspects showed up, as they do almost daily. They are an interesting cast of characters.

We are still recovering from the results of the COVID pandemic, especially economically. With flu season, new COVID cases, and RSV, a new epidemic can break out with possible new restrictions. I still keep masks handy, just in case.

With the holidays over, the municipal election cycle begins. Early voting begins at the end of this month. The ballots will be counted on election day, February 28th. There are nine contenders for mayor of Chicago. Mayor Lightfoot needs 50% plus one vote to get reelected. If she does not get that percentage, there will be a runoff election in April. The three top contenders running against her are U.S. Congressman Chuy Garcia, Paul Vallas, and businessman, and gadfly politician, Willie Wilson.

It will be interesting to see how much voter dissatisfaction there is over Lori Lightfoot’s reign on the Fifth Floor of City Hall. Lightfoot has some deep problems. Public safety is a joke. Her chosen Police Superintendent, the mercenary, David Brown, was a failure from day one. No other mayor in modern history would accept this continuing level of failure. Past mayors would have fired Brown before his first year was up.

Image: PV Bella

The aldermen and women are also up for election and reelection. Several decided not to run for reelection. Most were and still are silent on Lightfoot’s failures. A few speak up, but they are too few. There should have been an aldermanic rebellion over public safety failures in this city.

All I can say is, it is imperative that every eligible voter cast a ballot in the upcoming election. Our lives and way of life in Chicago are at stake. Chicago needs change, on the Fifth Floor of City Hall and in the City Council. I do not know who I am voting for, except it will be the candidate who will fire Superintendent David Brown and demote his equally incompetent First Deputy Superintendent, Eric Carter.

The Blackhawks and the Bulls and Bulls are having disappointing seasons this year. As for that football team, whatever they call themselves, they will put their fans out of their joyful misery this weekend when they lose to the Vikings again. Joyful misery? How else do you describe rabid backwoods rubes and bark chewing peckerheads who think the worst team in the NFL is so great? There is no joy in the Chicago sports world.

A while ago, I submitted a DNA sample to learn my genetic background and create a family tree. I received an email from the lab. It had to do with misophonia. Misophonia is a hatred of everyday noises, like the sound of people chewing. These noises can cause hatred, rage, and/or panic. According to my genetic markers, I have lower than average odds of hating the sound of people chewing. All you loud chewers are safe from me.

PSA

Image: PV Bella

Today is New Year’s Eve. As much as it pains me to be a humanitarian and good citizen of the world, I am including a PSA- Public Service Announcement- this New Year’s Eve.

 I should not have to say this. Unfortunately, we live in an age where the average adult is a low-information, over-educated intellectual idiot. They think they are smarter and more skilled than anyone else. The problem is they think.

Do not drink and drive tonight. Most of you cannot drive sober on a good day. I am amazed there is not a daily slaughter of the innocents with the way many people drive sober.

I do not care if you have been driving drunk since your high school days. One of the nice things about being religious is knowing facts. Fact, God created cabs and public trans for drunks.

Do not risk your life, the life of passengers, or the lives of other drivers and pedestrians. Take cabs to and from wherever you are going. If you are a miserly cheapskate and chiseler, take the L or a bus. Let the cab driver take you home. Do not literally take the cab. The same holds true for the bus. Buses are a bear to park or will not fit in your garage.

At the very least, if you get caught drunken driving, you will go to jail, where you belong. It will cost you thousands in legal fees, even if, by slim chance, you beat the charge. If they convict you, your total cost will be around twelve to fifteen thousand dollars, including the giant leap in insurance rates. At the very worst, you will catastrophically injure or kill others and/or yourself.

God used to take care of drunks and fools. Having been one, the other, or both on several occasions, I know this to be true. Unfortunately, God has been on vacation for a while figuring out where he went wrong by creating dumb beings called humans. He will not look after you.

Do not drink and drive.

If you make it home in one drunken piece, you will have a hangover. You may wake up hugging a cold stranger, the porcelain throne. There are more cures for hangovers than there are for chicken recipes. Hydration is important. Sports drinks, like Gatorade, help with some symptoms. So does rest. If you do not need to hug the porcelain, hydrate and go back to bed. Eventually, you will feel better. Then, once recovered, on New Year’s Day you can stuff your maw with whatever crap food you normally celebrate with. For some reason, junk food settles the tummy. It is the only health benefit junk food has.

Happy New Year.

Chicago is no longer the city that works

IMAGE: PV Bella

The Chicago Sun-Times published Homicides in Chicago: a list of every victim. It contains the names of the 685 homicide-and counting-victims in Chicago. (It is not known if the homicides on the expressway are included, as the Illinois State Police have jurisdiction over city expressways.) They list some as Unknown. I update the list daily. Readers can scroll through the list or check the data by Year, Month, Cause (Shooting or stabbing), and Race/Ethnicity. There is also a Priority Communities Dashboard.

Homicides are down over last year, 685 deaths are still way too many. While Police Superintendent David Brown hypes how many firearm arrests officers make, it does nothing to stop the slaughter. Aside from murders, armed robberies are a daily occurrence. Teams, spanning neighborhoods, commit multiple robberies each day and night. Carjackings are a daily occurrence throughout the city. Crime is still out of control.

Another issue is the number of defensive shootings by victimized Concealed Carry licensees. With more people licensed to carry concealed firearms, it could get like the Wild West if they become potential victims.

Brown keeps hyping his failing strategies, plans, schemes, and deployments. Nothing seems to work. Chicago police officers are overworked, understaffed, and their morale is in the toilet. Some districts are manned with half the regular shifts and too many one-man cars. Over 1000 police officers retired or quit this year. Police suicides are up this year too. It is not known why suicides are up, but officers get angrier with each one. They believe the department is failing them, and they communicate their feelings on social media.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot seems oblivious to Brown’s failures since day one. Past mayors would have fired Brown before his first year was up. Why Lightfoot puts faith in Brown’s “leadership” is the proverbial mystery wrapped in an enigma.

The two Chicago newspaper editorial boards remain eerily silent over the steep decline in public safety. This is a sea change from how they treated past mayors over leadership failures. They should have demanded that Lightfoot fire Brown after his disastrous handling of the riots, damage, arsons, and looting that accompanied the peaceful mass protests two years ago. The economic damage from May through August 2020 exceeded $125 million dollars. Many businesses, especially on the Magnificent Mile, never recovered.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot wears the hat. Her primary responsibility is public safety. She, like David Brown, failed miserably. His failures are her failures. Yet, she stubbornly clings to him.

As I wrote before, hiring retired mercenary police chiefs is irresponsible. They do not know the city, neighborhoods, cultures, or dynamics in a strange city. They have too long a learning curve. Brown learned nothing. He thinks he is still in Dallas.

The next mayor and city council must change the city ordinance to hire a police superintendent. They must eliminate the nationwide search for a police superintendent. Police Superintendents must come from the rank-and-file leadership. These leaders know the city, neighborhoods, community groups, and how things work. They have all the requisites to take charge on day one. There is no need for a learning curve. They also know they could be fired on day two, so they will do their best or face the consequences.

Lori Lightfoot does not deserve a second term as mayor. Unfortunately, most of those running against her are not much better, and a few would be worse. Too few alderpersons are vocal about the lack of public safety. The few who are vocal pull their punches. The city council should demand Lightfoot fire Brown. Yet, not one alderperson comes forward to speak the unspeakable. They too, failed us.

Chicago is no longer the city that works. The most important city service is public safety. If the public is not safe, the city cannot work.

The New Year is upon us

PHOTO: PV Bella

One down. One to go. Christmas is in the rearview mirror. New Year’s is around the corner. We suffered through a polar vortex with double-digit below-zero temperatures. The only good thing, weather-wise, was the predicted snowmageddon did not materialize.

Monday was downright balmy, with temperatures in the low 20s. By New Year’s, we will be back in the comfortable 40s or near 50s. Some will break the cargo shorts out. Winter is here with all the temperature and snow ups and downs.

I stopped going out on New Year’s Eve decades ago. It is the first amateur night of the year. All the amateur drinkers are out, getting beyond drunk, aggravating other patrons, puking their guts out, and driving drunk. No thank you, I will stay home or go to a house party close to my lair.

I worked many New Year’s Eves over the decades, and they were not pretty. Around 11:30, we would find a safe hiding place. The Chicago Police Department frowned on us bringing the cars in full of bullet holes. At midnight, there were so many gunshots, it sounded like the 4th of July in a war zone. We made dead pools. We would bet on what police district would have the first murder of the year. If we were lucky, we made an arrest before midnight. Then we spent a few hours of the New Year processing the arrestee. Worse were the drunken bar fights near closing times or the early morning drunken domestic disturbances, which had the propensity to turn violent.  

Making New Year’s resolutions began in ancient times when people promised the gods they would live better lives. In the present eras, they range from sincere to ludicrous. People vow to lose weight, join gyms, live a healthier lifestyle, quit what they consider bad habits, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Some are ludicrous because people aim to promise the impossible.

I do not make resolutions. I only strive for two things. Strive being the operative word. One, I try to be a better person and citizen of the world. Two, I will keep learning new things. These are relatively easy, as they are the things I do regularly. Being a better person is the most difficult, as I am old, crabby, ugly, tired, mean, miserable, and ornery. You know, perfectly normal.

I am a lifelong learner. I try to learn something new every day. The more one knows, the better person one becomes. I try to associate with people who have more knowledge than me or are more skilled than I am. I look, listen, and ask questions. One thing I never ever do is seek perfection. Never ever is a long f**king time. There is no perfection in nature. Humans created perfection to enslave them in a maze they can never escape.

I added one other thing for the upcoming year. Since I am no longer a fan of that fake contact sport, football, I will learn as much about soccer- real futbol- as possible. Soccer is a contact sport, but the players do not wear helmets or padding all over their bodies. There is not one NFL player who would last fifteen minutes on a soccer pitch. Soccer players, on average, run approximately 12 miles per game.

Football players are Ken Doll sides of beef pretending to convince the gullible backwood peckerhead fans they are rough, tough, macho men. Professional wrestling is more legitimate than football. At least wrestlers pretend to be trying to kill each other.

I am fortunate. I know people from all walks of life with various talents and skills. Through conversation, asking questions, or observation, I learn from them. I try to improve on what they provide through practice or more research.

My motto for several years is, if you think you know everything, you are wrong.

Happy New Year.