Unfortunately, Rogers Park experienced two shooting incidents Sunday evening.
I would like to summarize the facts surrounding the two incidents, with the understanding that the investigations are still underway and not all the facts are known. I would also like to share with you some of the efforts the police and I are undertaking to address the violence and what you can do to help. Finally, I would like to place the recent incidents in some perspective.
The first incident occurred on the 1300 block of W. Morse Avenue Sunday at approximately 5:15 p.m. Two people were hit by the same bullet, which was fired about one-half block from the victims. The victims, a man in a wheel chair and a woman who was pushing him, were treated and released from the hospital.
The man suffered a graze wound to the head and the woman was shot in the chest. Fortunately, because the bullet was fired from a distance, it lost much of its velocity by the time it struck the victims, thus minimizing their injuries.
Commander Thomas Waldera of the 24th District told me the police have not identified any suspects or motive for the shooting, but do not believe the victims were the intended targets.
The second shooting occurred in the gangway of a building on the 7400 block of N. Ridge Boulevard. Two men, both 29, were shot while attending an outdoor barbecue. Tragically, one man died from shotgun wounds to the abdomen and leg. The other man was shot in the right leg and taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where his condition has stabilized.
Commander Waldera tells me police do not believe the Ridge Boulevard shooting is related to the Morse Avenue shooting. Instead, they believe the Ridge Avenue incident is the result of a dispute between Evanston gangs, which spilled over into Chicago. The individual who hosted the barbecue had just moved into the building from Evanston and is believed to be a member of an Evanston street gang.
Commander Waldera requested and received additional resources including members from gang crimes and narcotics task forces. He is focusing on strategic deployment of those forces to head off possible future violence based on intelligence the police have received.
The Commander also said he would consider adding a foot patrol officer on Morse Avenue during the weekends to supplement the work of the foot officers who work the day and evening shifts during the week days. He already added a foot patrol officer to Devon Avenue.
In the meantime, the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago plan to hold a prayer vigil for the victim who died in the Ridge Boulevard. Their monastery is located directly across the street from the building where the shooting occurred.
The prayer vigil will take place today (Tuesday, September 2nd), 7:00 p.m., at 7455 N. Ridge. I plan to attend and I hope other neighbors will join me, not only in remembrance of the victim, but also as a show of community solidarity in the wake of the violence, which our community has experienced this summer.
Taking a stand against violence by attending a prayer vigil certainly is important, but I know many neighbors want to know what else they can do–and what my office can do–to stem the violence.
I’ve written a lot about CAPS and “Positive Loitering,” and I urge you to get involved with both, as they are proven effective tools for improving the safety of our neighborhood. For an explanation of CAPS and a schedule of upcoming CAPS meetings in the 49th Ward, CLICK HERE or scroll to the bottom of this email.
The organizers of the Positive Loitering campaign just announced the time and date of their next event:Thursday, September 11th, 7:00 p.m. at the corner of Pratt and Ashland. For an explanation of what Positive Loitering is all about, CLICK HERE or scroll to the bottom of this email.
The shooting incident on Ridge took place at a building that just started to experience some suspected criminal activity. I haven’t written as much as perhaps I should about our efforts to combat “problem buildings,” i.e., apartment buildings, which house illegal activity and the people who engage in such activity. I would like to share that information with you today and ask for your help in identifying those buildings and prioritizing those that are the worst offenders.
Using the powerful hammer of the “Drug and Gang House Enforcement Ordinance,” the 24th Police District and my office have waged very successful efforts at cleaning up problem apartment buildings that are known to foster gang and drug crime by acting as magnets for illegal activity.
The ordinance enables the city is able to hold property owners accountable for some of their tenants’ criminal activities. Once criminal activity is documented at the building, usually though a drug-related arrest at the property, an inspections task force with representatives of various City departments conducts inspections for code violations and provides recommendations for improving the property.
The case is referred to City attorneys for prosecution. The judge or administrative hearing officer can order the landlord to take measures to prevent the recurrence of the illegal activity. Those measures may include making improvements to the building, such as more secure locks and installing lighting to enhance security, the hiring of licensed and insured security personnel, the hiring of a receiver, and the initiation and execution of eviction proceedings against tenants engaged in illegal activity.
In the most extreme cases, when the building owner simply won’t cooperate, the City may request the court to order the owner to forfeit to the City his or her rights, title and interest in the building.
Often just the threat of such actions can prompt a landlord to improve the management of his or her building or sell the building to a more competent owner. Dozens of buildings in Rogers Park have been improved over the years as a result of joint efforts by my office, the 24th Police District and neighborhood residents.
No greater example of the benefits of this powerful tool than the building on Morse Avenue now known as“Reside on Morse.” Located at 1340 W. Morse(northwest corner of Morse and Glenwood), the building for years was a source of much of the gang and drug activity on Morse Avenue. My office, working together with the 24th District and community activists in CAPS Beat 2431, effectively used the Drug and Gang House Enforcement Ordinance to convince the owners to sell the property.
The new owners totally rehabilitated the building and engaged in aggressive screening of tenants. The turn-around of that building is one of the leading causes of the revitalization of Morse Avenue. What was once a drug and gang-infested building is now a neighborhood asset.
This is such an important and effective tool that Commander Waldera assigns a police officer whose sole responsibility is investigating and monitoring problem buildings in the district. The current problem buildings officer is Robin Popelka. She can be reached email@example.com, 312-744-6321.
In addition, I have a housing specialist in my office who devotes about two-thirds of her time in my office to housing issues, including problem buildings. Her name is Ann Hinterman and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 773-338-5796.
Both our offices currently are monitoring dozens of buildings in the ward. I have asked Ann on my staff to add to her list the building on Ridge where the shooting occurred and where a gang member is reputed to now live.
If you know of a building that is particularly troublesome in your block, please contact either Ann or Officer Popelka. Please be as specific as possible regarding your concerns. The more specific information you have, the better we are able to hold the landlord accountable.
A Holistic Approach
The focus cannot be placed solely on policing or problem buildings, however. The health of our community depends on a holistic approach that focuses not just on police protection, but also economic development, job creation and alternatives for at risk youth. We’ve had some great success on each of these fronts, including therecent opening of the new Jewel-Osco at Gateway Plaza, which has hired scores of community residents, including young people and people with backgrounds who have turned their lives around. I plan to talk about those in more detail in future electronic newsletters.
Finally, I believe a bit of perspective is required here. I have read several comments in the social media from people who claim the violence is worse in our neighborhood than it ever has been or say they will not frequent the businesses on Morse because of the recent violence.
The gun violence we have experienced in our neighborhood is completely unacceptable. There’s no debating it. But despite the recent violence, it’s important to keep in mind we are still in a better place than we were 10 years ago and a much better place than 20 years ago.
In the 1990s, an average of 18 people a year were victims of homicide in the 24th Police District, which encompasses Rogers Park. In the first decade of this century, the homicide rate plummeted to an average of 9.5 homicides a year. And in the first four years of this decade, the average number of homicides fell to an average of 7.5 a year. Altogether, we have seen a58.3% decrease on average in homicides in the 24th District since the 1990s, which mirrors a similar drop in serious crime in all categories.
Last year alone was a very good year. We experienced a near-record low number of homicides and shootings in 2013 (six and 25, respectively). Unfortunately, this year violence has spiked back up, but we are in no worse a position this year than we were during the same time just two years ago. By the middle of August this year, we experienced exactly the same number of shootings (23) as in 2012, but the number of homicides this year (5) is almost half the number we experienced by this time in 2012.
Below are the links for the statistics I quote above:
One homicide or shooting is one homicide or shooting too many and the gun violence of the last few weeks, including the Devon Avenue shooting and last Sunday’s shootings on Morse and Ridge, is completely unacceptable. We must do everything we can to reduce those numbers to 0.
I share these statistics only to demonstrate that we have cause for hope, that we have made considerable progress over the past 20 years and that the recent violent trend is by no means irreversible. The very last thing we should do is hide in our homes, fearful to venture outside.
Last summer’s Celebrate Clark Street Festival, Glenwood Arts Festival and the 49th Ward Back to School Picnicbrought thousands of diverse Rogers Park residents together without a single serious incident. Every day, hundreds of residents visit our vast array of eclectic restaurants, bars and galleries and businesses, again without serious incident. They are what define our neighborhood, not the craven few who choose to engage in random acts of violence.
Yes, please attend CAPS meeting and attend Positive Loitering events and report problem buildings to my office and the police. But most importantly, come out and enjoy all that our wonderful neighborhood has to offer.
CAPS stands for the Chicago Alternative Police Strategy, which is the Chicago Police Department’s transition to a Community Policing model, which focuses on building partnerships with community residents and working with them proactively to address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues, such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.
Police Districts in Chicago are divided into beats, small geographical areas to which “beat officers” are assigned. Originally, community residents met in monthly “beat meetings” with police officers who were assigned to their beats. Together the residents and the police would exchange information, prioritize public safety issues, and develop strategies to address those issues.
A few years ago, due to budgetary constraints, the beat meetings were replaced with monthly “sector meetings” (three beats combined). These larger meetings made it difficult for the police and the community to really focus on localized issues of concern.
Because of this difficulty, Commander Waldera announced recently that the 24th District would be returning to the smaller monthly beat meetings. Budgetary constraints, however, will allow the police officers to attend the beat meetings only every other month. On the months the police officers are unable to attend, the community will still meet under the leadership and direction of “Beat Facilitators” (community volunteers who serve as the liaisons between the community and the police department) to discuss public safety issues among themselves and prioritize concerns.
Below is a map of the 24th District that delineates each police beat, followed by a list of the upcoming 49th Ward beat meetings in September:
Beat 2422 (bound by Evanston on the north, Jarvis on the south, the lake on the east and Clark on the west). Beat Facilitator: Toni Duncan.
Date and time of meeting: Tuesday, September 23rd, 7:00 p.m.
Location: Willye White Park Fieldhouse, 1610 W. Howard (at Marshfield)
Beat 2423 (bound by Jarvis on the north, Lunt on the south, the lake on the east and Clark on the west). Beat Facilitator: Tony Iniquez
Date and time of meeting: Monday, September 8th, 7:00 p.m.
Location: Touhy Park Fieldhouse, 7348 N. Paulina (at Jarvis)
Beat 2424 (bound by Howard on the north, Pratt on the south, Clark on the east and Ridge on the west). Beat Facilitator: Bernard Garbo.
Date and time of meeting: Tuesday, September 16th, 7:00 p.m.
Location: Pottawattomie Park Fieldhouse, 7340 N. Rogers (at Winchester)
Beat 2431 (bound by Lunt on the north, Pratt on the south, the lake on the east and Clark on the west). Beat Facilitator: John Warner
Date and time of meeting: Tuesday, September 23rd, 7:00 p.m.
Location: St. Jerome’s Church Parish Center, 1709 W. Lunt (at Paulina)
Subscribe to Beat 2431’s newsletter: CAPSbeat2431email@example.com
Beat 2432 (bound by Pratt on the north, Devon on the south, the Lake on the east and Ridge on the west). Beat Facilitator: Patrick Kenny
Date and time of meeting: Tuesday, September 9th, 7:00 p.m.
Location: 24th District Police Station, 6464 N. Clark (at Schreiber)
Rogers Park Positive Loitering is a group of area residents, led by Rogers Park residents John Warner and John Versical, who gather together several evenings each month to stroll through the neighborhood or simply “loiter” on certain street corners. Their sole purpose is to deter crime by their positive presence on the street. Commander Waldera is convinced the group has had a very positive effect on deterring crime.