Parks, groups key in crime prevention

Active parks and strong community associations are key components to crime prevention, according to 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District commander Roger Bay.

"We have parks that are empty, (but) at Jefferson Park I can’t believe the amount of people who come out there," Bay said at the Oct. 29 meeting of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association. "We’re having people coming out of their house, meeting other people."

Bay said that the number of community events held at Jefferson Park, 4822 N. Long Ave., and its regular programming help create a safe environment. "These are the kind of things that keep the community strong," he said.

The Jefferson Park Advisory Council has attracted more than 10,000 people to festivals and movie nights, in the past 2 years, and the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce holds its annual "Jeff Fest" music and art festival at the park in July. A "Figment" art festival also was held in the park last August.

Bay said that he also is impressed with the networking that occurs among the neighborhood and business associations in the 16th District. He said that members of a group often attend meetings of another organization and that the groups sometimes cosponsor events.

Bay was named the 16th District commander in April. "Overall I like what I see," he said. "It’s almost 200,000 people and 30 square miles, and it’s the safest district in the city."

Bay said that he is asked when problems of panhandling at the Jefferson Park CTA terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., should be reported. He said that that is a difficult issue for the police because panhandlers have rights but that 911 should be called when they become aggressive, such as touching someone, or when they approach someone who is withdrawing cash from an automatic teller machine.

Bay said that 911 should be called if police are needed immediately and that 311 should be used for non-emergencies.

Also at the meeting, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-5), who was re-elected on Nov. 4, discussed the legislative gridlock facing Congress. "This is the best job in the country and at the same time the most frustrating," Quigley said.

Quigley said that a bill which he cannot get through Congress "would bring back the nuclear arsenal to what the generals say it should be."

It also was reported that about 1,300 signatures have been collected against a proposal which calls for the construction of a five-story apartment complex on a vacant parcel at the northeast corner of Argyle Street and Long Avenue, across the street from the Jefferson Park Metra station. The association has been helping residents with the petition drive, and it opposes the proposed rezoning of the property needed for the project.

Alderman John Arena (45th) has said that higher density near commercial districts and public transportation hubs can help revitalize those areas by increasing the customer base, but the organizers of the petition drive argue that the project is not appropriate for the site because it would be in a neighborhood of mostly single-family homes and two-flats. The project was proposed more than a year ago.

The association will sponsor its first "Sing-along Messiah" at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave. Admission is $15, and tickets can be purchased online at

The association’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, at the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, 5320 W. Giddings St.