by KEVIN GROSS
The murders of five people at an apartment complex in the 6700 block of West Irving Park on Oct. 12 and the arrest of three people carrying tools to break into cars and steal catalytic converters were discussed at the Oct. 17 meeting of the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District Advisory Committee.
District commander Maureen Biggane said that police had received few signs in advance that the man who was eventually charged in the mass-murder was a danger to the community.
Krysztof Marek, age 66, was charged with five counts of first-degree murder after he fatally wounded two men and three women at the apartment complex. Officers found a weapon and the man allegedly told responding officers that "I did."
"People don’t necessarily want to involve the police. So while we hear he had anger management (problems), I don’t necessarily have a whole lot to substantiate that, so I don’t know exactly what transpired," Biggane said. She said that "very few" calls for service were made to the building in the last 3 years. She said that the "one documented case involved the suspect."
Biggane said that outreach to the families of the victims have included efforts from the Bulgarian consulate, as four of the five victims were Bulgarian and that the district CAPS office and state’s and district attorneys’ offices are offering assistance to the families while she has personally helped to walk the families, all of Eastern European descent, through detectives’ work and the court process.
There have also been two GoFundMe accounts created to benefit the victims’ families that have raised more than $70,000 combined as of press time. To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/ funerals-for-tzveti-ivo-iskra-and-david and at www.gofundme.com/ f/for-help-and-support-of-jakub-k.
Biggane urged residents to not hesitate to call police in the event of any violent incident, criminal activity or warning signs that could precede a violent act.
"I don’t care how minimal you might think it is, call us, let us assess, let us document it. We get to know somebody, we get to know the history in the building, that’s something we might be able to do some intervention on earlier," she said. "The only thing I can do is urge people to call 9-1-1."
Despite the shootings adding to district’s murder rate for 2019, Biggane reported that overall crime incidents are 18 percent lower than last year.
Robberies have dropped by 31 percent from 96 to 66 incidents, burglaries have dropped by 28 percent from 391 to 282 incidents, and felony theft incidents have dropped by 21 percent from 527 to 415 thefts. There have been 11 shooting incidents this year versus 12 last year, and motor vehicle thefts have dropped by five percent from 310 to 293.
Also at the meeting, the committee honored officers Agnieszka Broniec, Daniel Birt, Sammy Encarnacion and Robert Roth as the "Officers of the Month" for August for their role in the Aug. 27 arrest of three men in the 5900 block of North Medina Avenue who were allegedly carrying tools for catalytic converter thefts and vehicular burglaries.
The arrests occurred after the officers stopped a red Chevrolet Tahoe for disobeying a traffic light, and after they observed the same Chevrolet continue to drive erratically they approached the vehicle as two additional suspects also approached the vehicle, and two of the men ran away from police but were caught and the Chevrolet itself was discovered to have been forcibly entered, according to police.
"It was a huge deal because…burglaries to autos, catalytic converter thefts, thefts related to autos are a really big deal here in the 16th District," Biggane said. "So these officers were focused, they knew exactly what they were looking for and they found them."
Biggane also praised the success of the district’s domestic violence rally and resource fair held on Oct. 11 and she said that officers will continue to be busy monitoring and connecting with residents at remaining community Saturday block parties held during the last warm-weather weeks of the year.