Ald. Napolitano addresses crime, roadway issues
by BRIAN NADIG
Concerns that violent crime is becoming more prevalent in the northern half of the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District were raised at the March 21 meeting of the North Edgebrook Civic Association.
Residents at the meeting noted that two teenagers in 2017 have been shot in Jefferson Park. A man said that in the past shootings tended to occur almost exclusively in the south end of the district, closer to Belmont Avenue.
Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st), who was the guest speaker at the meeting, said that both shootings were drug-related and that they represent a disturbing trend for the city. “We have more shootings than L.A. and New York combined,” Napolitano, said.
Napolitano, a former police officer and fire fighter, said that there has been a cultural shift in how the public perceives officers due to the misconduct of a very small number of officers. He said that some officers have become reluctant to stop a suspicious person because they are worried that they will be disciplined or sued for questioning the individual or for having to use force to subdue a suspect no matter how justified their actions are.
“They’re not stopping these people anymore,” Napolitano said. “We are creating a reactive police department rather than an active police department.”
The 16th District has seen its number of officers increase from about 185 in 2015 to 230 this year, Napolitano said. In the early 2000s about 270 officers were assigned to the district. “Some of the officers, and I’m not going to lie, get detailed out,” Napolitano said, calling for increases in the number of officers citywide.
Napolitano told the association that he would follow-up on its request to ask the district to occasionally station a squad car at night at Wildwood Park, 6950 N. Hiawatha Ave. In the past the association has hosted community walks through the park due to concerns about teenagers drinking alcohol and other rowdy behavior.
Also at the meeting, Napolitano reported that he plans to have Fitch Avenue between Ionia Avenue and Mason Avenue resurfaced but that he is waiting for a moratorium on the street to be lifted. “It looks like a Sherman tank was driven down that street,” he said after the meeting.
The moratorium on Fitch appears to be in place due to an adjacent sewer project on Ionia, Napolitano said. The city imposes a resurfacing moratorium when there are concerns that other projects could cause a street to be torn up, delaying the resurfacing until the completion of the other work, he said.
Napolitano said that some of the ward’s discretionary funds, which must be used for capital improvements, may be allocated for the installation of diagonal parking along Leoti Avenue next to Wildwood Park and along Ionia next to Edgebrook Park, 6525 N. Hiawatha Ave. “It would be useful for those going to baseball games,” he said.
Napolitano recently held a community vote to determine how to spend most of the ward’s $1.32 million of discretionary funds for 2017. He said that he is hopeful that all of the community initiatives on the ballot will get funded.
There also are plans for a community garden at Estes and Caldwell avenues, and a county grant is being sought to allow for beautification improvements along Devon Avenue near the forest preserve, Napolitano said.
It also was reported that Napolitano and Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) have been meeting with representatives of several agencies to work on a plan to improve traffic flow and safety in Downtown Edgebrook.
Any solution will be difficult to come up with, Napolitano said. “We have two crossings with eight streets . . . at such a small location,” he said.
Some residents asked if the trains could stop further north to prevent trains blocking an intersection, but Napolitano said that relocating the platform at the Edgebrook Metra station does not appear to be an option.
A request for a traffic signal was made for the Caldwell-Tony intersection. Napolitano said that part of the problem is coming up with the estimated $320,000 to install a stoplight.