Petition asking for more police officers
by KEVIN GROSS
A petition asking for more police officers in the 16th (Jefferson Park) District was presented to officials at a public safety forum held by Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) on May 24 at Saint Francis Borgia School, 8033 W. Addison St.
Officer shortage and attrition were discussed along with other issues such as the transition to a "Smart 911" system at the meeting, which was attended by CPD first deputy superintendent Anthony Riccio, district commander William Looney, representatives of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, and about 25 residents.
"Our fear is that hiring is not enough to keep up with attrition. We feel like for every ten (officers) we get, we fall seven behind," said Renata Leonard of the group Northwest Side Unite. Leonard presented a petition to Riccio containing more than 2,700 signatures from area residents requesting additional officers.
Sposato said that attrition was an issue that he was concerned about and that he also lobbied Riccio and chief of patrol Fred Waller for more officers.
"I’ve been keeping an eye out on it myself," Sposato said. "He (Waller) gave us 10 (cops) right out of our meeting, but those 10 kind of got gobbled up with retirements, promotions, detail, whatever it was."
Riccio said that hopes to add about 40 officers by the end of the year. Leonard said that she has been following the drop of officers from about 275 officers since the early 2000’s.
"It seems like reported crimes are getting worse," she said. "It used to be kid stuff, like ‘someone stole my snowman off my porch.’ Now, we’re reading and hearing about burglaries, carjackings, shootings and the like."
Looney and Riccio noted that, according to statistics, there has been a drop in robberies, motor vehicle thefts, criminal sexual assaults, burglaries, batteries and assaults, and that homicides have not occurred in the district compared to two last year.
"We still have a lot of legitimate shots fired calls, although we’re lucky they mostly fire from a car and move on," Looney said.
"The officers that actually physically show up to work in the 16th District is 6 percent higher than it was this day in 2017," Riccio said. "But if it looks like the attrition rate is a little higher than we thought, I can promise you I am going to keep an eye on it myself."
Officers also discussed the new "Smart 911" system, where people who enroll would upload personal information ahead of time to shorten response times or confusion in the event of emergencies.
"It’s a secured information platform that subscribers would use to provide information to the 911 operators in case of an emergency," Rose Pigott-Bailey of the OEMC said. "In a chaotic situation, chances are we forget a lot of vital information that we would normally remember: our plate information, our address and phone number."
Residents would provide their phone information as well as additional voluntary information, from building floor plans to photos and physical descriptions of dependents such as children or seniors, which emergency dispatchers would automatically receive upon a call.
"If there’s a fire and you’ve uploaded your information that says your children sleep in the back bedroom … the firefighters and paramedics will already know kids are in the back," Pigott-Bailey said.
Pigott-Bailey said that information would travel through residents’ cellphones and transfer to other municipalities that use "Smart 911" systems, and said that the system could reduce 11 minutes off response times.
To protect citizen privacy, Pigott-Bailey said that personal information would only be available 45 minutes after a 911 call is made, and that the system is encrypted and "even more secure than what your bank does."
Also at the meeting, a resident asked about what he perceived as the increase in thefts of vehicles’ catalytic converters and tires.
"The catalytic converters and tires have no VINs (vehicle identification numbers), that’s why they’re getting targeted," Looney said.
Looney said that officers have checked and confirmed that most such items are not being sold to junkyards as scrap, and that they plan to check at auto service shops and parts retailers to see if they are selling new versus used parts and that "they are not reselling to victims the same merchandise that a thief just stole."