Alderman Laurino, Police Commander hold town hall meeting

By Brian Nadig

Concerns about recent attacks in forest preserves, a reported drug house and a series of commercial burglaries were discussed at a Sept. 5 town hall meeting hosted by Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) and 16th District (Jefferson Park) District commander James O’Donnell.

“I don’t want people to be frightened to go on the (forest preserve) trails,” Laurino told the approximately 100 people who attended the meeting at Colletti’s restaurant, 5707 N. Central Ave. “This is our neighborhood. We are not going to let the bad guys take it away from us.”

On Aug. 27 an off-duty police officer reported that she was running on the Caldwell Woods bike trail when a man asked her if she was alone and then tried to pull her off the trail, and two days later another off-duty officer reported that a man tackled her while she was on the Sauganash Trail and began pulling at her shirt, according to police.

O’Donnell said that there are indications that the assailant in each incident may be different. Police also are looking into an incident on Sept. 1 in which a woman told police a man approached her while she on the Caldwell Woods trail and asked if he could accompany her.

O’Donnell said that police have distributed fliers warning people about the incidents and that he urges residents to report suspicious behavior. “We want to err on the side of caution. Let the police go out and investigate,” he said. “The woods are safe, except a few isolated incidents.”

Also at the meeting, several residents asked police to investigate an alleged drug house in the Indian Woods community. According to residents, there is gang activity at the home and that drug dealing has occurred outside the house, and one man said that the drug dealing has relocated to in front of his home.

It also was reported that two burglaries and one attempted burglary recently occurred in Downtown Edgebook along West Devon Avenue, and in one of the incidents, a safe was stolen, and passers-by saw two men exit the stores and enter a car, according to police.

O’Donnell said that the incidents may be related and that he urges business owners to have alarms installed and replace wood entry doors in the rear of their building with a stronger material such as steel. He said that in one incident entry was gained by kicking in a rear door.

In response to concerns about police presence in the community, O’Donnell said that a beat car is in operation “99.9 percent of the time” in each of the district’s 12 beats. He said that he will deny an officer’s request for a day off in order to ensure that the beat cars are being manned each shift but that on a few occasions a beat car has had one instead of two officers.

It also was announced that construction of the planned three-mile extension of the North Branch Bike Trail is tentatively scheduled to start in the fall of 2014 and end in the spring of 2015. Cook County Forest Preserve District superintendent Arnold Randall said project will require permits from the U.S. Army Core of Engineers due to some of the wetlands in the area.

The extension will run from Downtown Edgebrook on the north to La Bagh Woods on the south. It will include the building of a 755-foot bridge over railroad tracks near Ardmore Avenue and Indian Road and an expansion of an existing tunnel under the Edens Expressway near Forest Glen and Lansing avenues.

Concerns also were raised at the district’s decision in 2009 to rename Indian Road Woods in memory of former forest preserve district commissioner Ted Lechowicz. Resident Don Walsh recommended that the signs at the preserve be switched back to its original name because it reflects the area’s heritage and that Lechowicz’ name could go under the original name.

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