Gang dispute reportedly responsible for some Jefferson Park, Six Corners shooting incidents; police say POD cameras help investigations, as Ald. Gardiner hopes to install more in the 45th Ward
by BRIAN NADIG
A gang conflict primarily east of Cicero Avenue that has been spilling over into the 16th (Jefferson Park) District and the role that police observation device cameras play in investigations were discussed at a Feb. 2 public safety meeting hosted by Alderman James Gardiner (45th).
A dispute between rivals gangs in the neighboring 17th (Albany Park) District is believed to be responsible for some of the recent shooting incidents in the Six Corners and Jefferson Park area, said 16th District commander Maureen Biggane. Cicero is the dividing line between the two districts.
The Chicago Police Department has been deploying the “appropriate” units to address the gang violence, and the district has been assigning traffic missions in neighborhoods where shootings have occurred so police are more visible, Biggane said.
The district also has been utilizing POD cameras, which often include license plate reader technology, to identify vehicles used in crimes, including recent shooting incidents in Jefferson Park and the apprehension of a suspect in a string of thefts from pharmacies, police officials said at the meeting.
Officers working the district’s new Strategic Decision Support Center have access to the cameras. “It’s basically an intel hub for us,” Biggane said of the center. “We are the last district in the city to get one.”
Gardiner said that police informed him that several PODs installed last year in Jefferson Park helped detectives trace the movements of a vehicle belonging to a murder suspect, who was charged in the shooting of a 19-year-old woman outside an unlicensed social club near Central and Lawrence avenues.
“(PODs) are very helpful in piecing things together after … the crime,” Biggane said.
The locations for the 45th Ward cameras were chosen based on the recommendations of the district’s tactical lieutenant, Gardiner said. The cameras were funded using the ward’s discretionary budget for infrastructure improvements and a county grant from Commissioner Bridget Gainer (D-10).
“In the very near future, I’d like to add an additional five to 10 in our community,” Gardiner said of the PODs.
One resident questioned the need to use the ward’s discretionary budget for cameras given how large the police department’s budget is. In the past year, several aldermen on the Northwest Side have allocated a portion of their ward funds toward cameras, as the district has sought more cameras to coincide with the opening of the support center.
Biggane asked residents to call police anytime they believe they hear gunshots and to also report stolen license plates, as criminals are using them on the cars. “If you think you heard shots, don’t get on social media, definitely call 911,” Biggane said. “This is truly about us working together.”
Some residents asked if the district has a sufficient number of officers given the recent reports of beat cars having only one officer instead of the preferred two on some shifts in late December.
Biggane said that districts citywide are dealing with retirements and other factors leading to officers leaving but that “we are doing well with what we have now.” The district was getting four new officers this month, she said.
Biggane did note that the district has experienced a recent increase in the number of reported criminal sexual assaults, described by police as acquaintance-related.
About 25 residents attended the meeting, which was held at the Kolping Center, 5826 N. Elston Ave.
Gardiner, who had the meeting live streamed on Facebook, said that the snowy weather kept some people away and that he plans to hold additional safety meetings in other neighborhoods in the ward.
Gardiner asked residents to walk through their neighborhood and create a presence that will help deter crime. “Be involved. … Be mindful,” he said.
Meanwhile, Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) will hold a safety meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8, at the Portage Park Senior Center, 4100 N. Long Ave., in response to the recent violence in Jefferson Park, which includes parts of the 38th and 45th wards.
Due to space restrictions and COVID-19 concerns, Sposato asks that only one person per household attend and said that the meeting is for those living in an area bounded by Berteau Avenue on the south, Wilson Avenue on the north, Laramie Avenue on the east and Austin Avenue of the west. He said that similar meetings for Portage Park and Dunning will be held in the spring.