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SAFETY MEETING HIGHLIGHTS
 

IMAGE: Safety MeetingMany thanks teveryone who packed into the Maplewood Park field house Tuesday night for a Community Meeting led by 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno, Sgt. Reyes from the 14th District police division, and CAPS Community Organizer Liz Rios. It’s not often we get this kind of official audience outside of CAPS meetings, and the resulting discussion about safety in West Bucktown proved to be both interesting and informative.

While the bulk of the discussion focused on recent gang violence in our area, a wide range of topics was covered during the 90-minute meeting. If you missed it, here are the highlights:
 

  • Sgt. Reyes shared key year-to-date crime stats for the 14th District, which indicate that overall crime is actually declining in our area. Homicides are down 50% (from 6 to 3), armed robberies are down 40%, and there were only 3 aggravated batteries in West Bucktown. So while certainly alarming, the recent spate of gang-related shootings does not appear to be indicative of any uptick in violent crime in West Bucktown.

  • The shootings at 1600 Talman and 1900 Rockwell were both gang-related and are expected to be resolved shortly. The victims were all from outside the West Bucktown area — in fact, only one victim was even a resident of the 14th District. The shooting at Rockwell actually began with a car chase that started well outside of our boundaries.

  • Sgt. Reyes reminded everyone that being a gang member is not against the law in and of itself — they can't proactively arrest someone just because they have a known gang affiliation. When asked how many gangbangers frequent our area, he noted that it is generally the same 8 to 10 individuals who cause most of the gang disturbances in any given neighborhood. All are well known to the police, who keep very detailed records of gang affiliation. 

  • There are three gangs with known presence in our area: the Maniac Latin Disciples (colors are blue/black), Campbell Boys (blue/red) and Spanish Cobras (black/green). Although most gang members do not actually live in West Bucktown, their turf extends from south of Division in Humboldt Park into our area. Sgt. Reyes noted that most gang-on-gang violence today is not about turf wars — it's based on gang rivalry that's inflamed by social media, such as YouTube videos of gangbangers publicly taunting other gangs.  

  • What should we look for to help proactively eliminate gang activity in West Bucktown? Groups of teenagers (particularly young men) loitering on street corners, flashing gang signs with their hands, jumping in front of cars, or intimidating pedestrians. Also look for gang colors on hats and shoes, public drinking, loud music, groups with pit bulls or other aggressive breed dogs, and slow-driving cars. Any one of these conditions can turn an otherwise innocent situation into a technical "disturbance," which gives the police probable cause to conduct field interviews, check for warrants, and ultimately remove potential troublemakers from our streets.

  • When calling 911, don't embellish what you see, but do be VERY specific about what you are observing. Even if you can't be 100% certain it's gang activity, using words like "aggressive" and "intimidating" and "loud" will serve as triggers for police response. If you want to share additional details with the officers who respond but don't want to be observed chatting with them on your property, you can ask the 911 operator to have an officer call you.

  • Calls to 911 are the single-most important factor in the assignment of police patrols to our area. Sgt. Reyes noted that in the last 3 months, the 1600 block of Washtenaw logged 9 calls related to gang activity, 1600 Maplewood logged 5 calls, and 1600 Talman logged only 2 calls. By comparison, he sometimes has as many as 10 calls at the start of a single shift in other neighborhoods. Alderman Moreno also explained that every year when the weather starts warming up, he has to spar with other Alderman who want to see patrols pulled from the "safer" 1st Ward and reallocated to other parts of the city. So far, he's been successful in keeping our police coverage, but that could change if he doesn't have the 911 calls to back it up. Bottom line: PLEASE CALL 911 TO REPORT ANY AND ALL SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. And don't make the mistake of thinking "why bother, the troublemakers will be gone by the time the police get here." EVERY single call is important to our overall stats. And in many cases, even if the activity you witnessed has stopped, the information can help officers if they apprehend someone matching the same description in another part of the neighborhood.

  • Liz Rios discussed the merits of positive loitering, including outdoor roll calls and "smoke outs" (barbecues) to gather community members together in a visible display of neighborhood unity. The WBNA will explore the possibility of hosting a positive loitering event at Lucy Flower Park when it reopens next month. She also reminded the group about some basic steps that can be taken to deter crime, including keeping front porch lights on all night, installing motion sensors in alleys and backyards, always locking windows and doors, and affixing address numbers on garages to assist first responders. Address stickers were handed out to all attendees for their alleyways — they can also be picked up at the 1st Ward Office.

  • There was a lively discussion about various problem properties throughout West Bucktown — from suspected drug houses and gang loitering, to loud neighbors and animal hoarders. Residents are encouraged to email all non-emergency complaints to CAPS.014DISTRICT@CHICAGOPOLICE.COM or call the 14th District Desk at (312) 744-8290. Alderman Moreno also urged us to notify Rocio Varela from his office (rocio.varela@cityofchicago.org) , as he and his staff are often able to assist the 14th District in their investigations. Both the Alderman and Sgt. Reyes have offered to personally visit problem properties, if warranted.  

  • A concern was raised about the safety of trespassers on the Bloomingdale Trail, especially now that access ramps are being built. While the trail is under construction, we are encouraged to notify The 606 team directly with any concerns or complaints (www.the606.org/contact-us/). But Sgt. Reyes also noted that CPD officers are being trained to patrol the trail with ATVs and will be taking over security when it opens to the public.

  • Did you know that the 14th District has a Twitter account? Follow them at @ChicagoCAPS14!

  • The WBNA is looking to revitalize the safety phone trees that had been in place throughout the neighborhood several years ago. If you'd be willing to serve as the captain for your block who collects and disseminates phone numbers and email addresses, please email info@westbucktown.org. We'll arrange a meet-and-greet in the near future to get this effort underway.

Photo via Facebook, courtesy of Juan Johnny Elias. 



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