Police hope tenant eviction, arrests will end recent problems of drug dealing, prostitution, thefts on Strong Street in Jefferson Park; residents credited for helping with the investigation
by BRIAN NADIG
Police say residents played a helpful role in a series of arrests and an eviction that hopefully will end recent problems of drug dealing and prostitution in the 5100 block of West Strong Street in Jefferson Park.
“This is an example of how we solve problems working together,” acting 16th District commander Mike Barz told the 45 residents who attended the May 18 Beat 1623 meeting. “To get the community involved is a force multiplier … so you’re all part of public safety.”
Several of the residents at the beat meeting also attended a virtual court hearing on May 11 that led to people living in an apartment building on Strong, where drug sales reportedly were occurring, being evicted on May 18, Barz said. The landlord has been cooperating with police and signing trespassing complaints, he added.
“The judge did take notice that (community members were at the hearing),” district buildings officer Steven Howski said.
In addition, district tactical sergeant Ambar Toledo said that the numerous 911 calls about problems on the block assisted police in the investigation and led to suspects being identified. “It gives us documentation, (and) that paper trail is huge,” she said, urging 911 callers to give as many details as possible.
Five people were arrested on May 18 at the building on Strong, according to police. Some of the suspects reportedly were hiding in a crawl space, police said.
The suspects face trespassing charges and were believed to be in the area to purchase drugs, police said. Several of the suspects also have outstanding warrants, police said.
In addition, on May 9 a suspect was arrested in connection with the selling drugs out of a parked vehicle in the area, and the vehicle has been impounded, Barz said.
In recent weeks area residents have complained about prostitution taking place in vehicles and about residential break-ins and thefts of bikes and scooters. Police said that they suspect the prostitution and thefts were being done by people in need of money to buy drugs that were being sold on the block.
One resident said that his home on an adjacent block has been broken into several times and that he cannot sleep at night because he is worried for his family’s safety.
Residents said that the drug dealing and other problems have been occurring for a couple of months but seemed to be increasing with the warmer weather.
Barz said that the district has been running special missions in the area, leading to drug-related and other arrests. He added that several vehicles were impounded.
Barz said that residents should remain vigilant because potential drug buyers may not know about the eviction and could return to the block. He said that the district will place a “special attention” for the area.
Some of those who lived in the building reportedly are seeking to retrieve their belongings, but they can only do so if accompanied by an officer, police said.
It also was reported that next week leftover belongings will be placed outside the building.
A representative of Alderman James Gardiner (45th) said that the belongings cannot be removed by the city for 24 hours under the law but that arrangements are being made to have them cleared soon after that.
It also was reported that the eviction notice was served within a week of the judge signing the order. “Otherwise, we hear it can take six, seven, eight weeks, or longer,” Barz said.
A resident said that County Commissioner Bridget Degnen’s office was asked to assist with speeding up the process.
The building owner attended the beat meeting, and residents gave him a round of applause for his cooperation.
Barz praised the district’s tactical officers and others who worked on the case. “I hope you’re as proud as I am of the people who work in the district,” Barz said. “We did everything that we said we’d do (at a meeting two weeks ago with residents).”