16th District holds ‘walking beat meeting’
by BRIAN NADIG
Officials with the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District hope to have an increased presence at neighborhood events this summer as part of an effort to improve community relations.
"We hear concerns around the city that people can’t connect with the police," 16 District commander Roger Bay said. "They want ‘officer friendly’ again (in the schools)."
Bay spoke at a district-sponsored walk through the Jefferson Park commercial district on June 19. About 30 people met at the Jefferson Park Library, 5363 W. Lawrence Ave., for what Bay described as a "walking, talking beat meeting."
The event, which was part of the Chicago Police Department’s "faith and action" initiative, featured a prayer led by Eden United Church of Christ pastor the Reverend Jacki Belile and comments by Alderman John Arena (45th) and state Representative Robert Martwick (D-19).
An officer who patrolled Forest Glen on her bicycle during a recent community garage sale received a great response from residents, Bay said. He said that community events like the garage sale make the 16th District a safe place to live because they get residents out of their homes, away from their computers and television sets, and force them to get to know their neighbors, Bay said.
Bay said that some people say that crime "has never been worse" but that the district experienced 40-year lows in the number of burglaries and vehicle thefts reported in 2014. He said that district is fortunate to have a busy schedule of community festivals and farmers’ markets at Jefferson Park and Portage Park.
Most of the residents who met at the library walked to the Jefferson Park CTA terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., for a roll call of officers who were assigned to patrol different areas of the CTA and Metra stations. The walk concluded at the park.
Bay said that the commercial district was chosen for the walk-through in part because of problems involving panhandling and the homeless. "We get a lot of people complaining, but that by itself is not a crime," he said.
Bay said that officers recently approached a 24-year-old homeless man who was near the entrance to the library and who said that he takes advantage of the free WiFi offered at the library. "Unfortunately this man did not want our help, and he had no connection with his family," he said.
Bay encouraged those who attended the walk to attend the district’s beat meetings. He said that efforts are made to have to beat officers attend the meetings but that they occasionally are busy processing an arrest or following up on a 911 call.