Community Alert — Armed Robberies

Chicago Police have issued a community alert about three armed robberies committed in our area during the first week of August. The police have released the following information:

 

About the crime:

In these incidents, unknown offender(s) have approached the victims, produced handguns, and robbed the victims of their
belongings.
Incident Times and Locations:
6100 block of N. Winchester Avenue, August 1, 2018, at 11:30 p.m.
2200 block of West Granville Avenue, August 3, 2018, at 9:20 p.m.
6000 block of N. Talman Avenue,
August 4, 2018, at 7:30 p.m.
About the Offenders:
 The offenders are described as unknown male blacks between the ages of 16 – 25, wearing t-shirts or tank tops. In one incident the co-offender was described as an unknown male white with blond hair.
What you should do:
Always be aware of your surroundings
Pay special attention to any suspicious people or vehicles loitering in the area
If you are confronted by assailants, remain calm
Remember any unique physical characteristics (ie., scars, limp, acne, tattoos)
Never pursue a fleeing assailant
Call 911 immediately and provide a detailed description of the offender(s)
including any vehicle description and license plate information
If you have any information on the above incidents, please call the Detective Bureau at 312/744-8263. Case numbers are:
JB-375209; JB-378102; and JB-379460. The reference number is P18-N-204.
Thanks to Mark Lebowitz and the 24th District CAPS office for releasing this information to the community.
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WBEZ Mischaracterizes Neighborhood Watch

Yesterday’s report on the West Ridge Community Watch Program broadcast by our local NPR station, WBEZ, was inaccurate in several respects, from the color of and legend on the jackets to the extent of concern by residents that Watch participants are somehow spies for the police. To suggest that the Watch program is racist in nature is a gross mischaracterization of the program, its participants, and our local police.

Members of the Community Watch program are neighbors watching out for neighbors. A single resident, Jennifer Viets, was interviewed by Odette Youseff of WBEZ and described Watch participants as “menacing” people in “uniforms” who have been “deputized;” worse, she has told neighbors with nonwhite children that they have reason to be afraid of Watch participants. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sgt. Shawn Sisk of the 24th District CAPS Office at the February 6, 2017, Neighborhood Watch Program organizational meeting. He is wearing the yellow jacket which all Watch program participants wear while walking.

The Neighborhood Watch Program was formed as a response to property crimes, especially vehicle theft and thefts from yards, porches, garages, and vehicles. The idea is simple: Neighbors walk a few blocks around their neighborhood, noting unsecured or open doors on homes, garages, apartment buildings, or vehicles, or piles of rat-attracting garbage. Watchers may ring a doorbell to advise a homeowner that the garage has been left open or a bike left outside, or take a quick photo of the garbage and send it to the City via 311. If Watchers see public drinking, drug sales, or suspicious activities, such as someone walking down the street trying to open car doors, they call 911. Sgt. Sisk noted in the WBEZ report that most of the thefts occurred because people were not locking their doors.

Watchers have been specifically instructed by the police not to assume police powers and not to intervene in any situation; their sole role is to notify the City or the police of what, if anything, they note on their walks. They may not use their vehicles or ride bikes but must walk. They may not carry weapons or use police scanners, and must obey the law at all times. Watchers must be older than age 21. They can walk with their dogs (the dogs must be leashed). It’s suggested that two people walk together. Most importantly, Watchers have been told not to misrepresent themselves as police officers. They have no power to detain or arrest anyone.

Viets has complained in the past of her son’s treatment by the police several years ago when he was a young teenager (he is now an adult). I first heard her story last summer when she attended an event hosted by the alderman at which then-new Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson was to meet residents of West Ridge. She said she was planning to confront Johnson with her story; he was unable to attend but Viets repeated her son’s story to the crowd. Youseff was careful in her report to note that the son “has never been convicted” of any crime, and in a follow-up interview said the young man had “no criminal record.” The police, of course, cannot discuss their encounters with either the young man or his mother, which leaves us with half the story. But Viets has assumed such an extreme anti-policing position that her window displays a sign saying “We don’t call police…..”

She also noted that all the Watchers are white, suggesting that the group is racist. But membership is open to all interested residents, and Watchers safeguard the property of non-white residents, too. Neither the police nor the Community Watch can be held accountable if non-white residents choose not to participate. If protecting your home, vehicle, and other property are not enough motivation for you to join the group, so be it. Participation is voluntary. Watchers do not discriminate, and would welcome neighbors of all races and ethnicities. Residents can opt in as well as out.

Youseff did note that the number of car thefts around Indian Boundary has decreased, though it’s not clear if this is a result of the Neighborhood Watch or simply a return to the “normal” level of that crime in the area. I’d bet the Watch has had an impact.

Viets told Youseff that she wants to try to develop a different approach to community-building.  She’s working with others to organize “resistance” and suggested that the shootings of Trayvon Martin by a community watch volunteer in Florida and of a black teenager by a Cleveland police officer support her concerns. It’s unfortunate that she cannot move past her anger with the police for what she believes is past injustice. Using that anger to deepen the racial divide does not help build community.

It’s wrong to suggest that our neighborhood watch program is cause for alarm. Good people keeping an eye out for potential trouble are an asset to the neighborhood.

CAPS Neighborhood Watch Program

An overflow crowd attended Monday’s meeting on the new CAPS Neighborhood Watch Program. CAPS Sgt. Shawn Sisk explained the program to attentive, focused residents, stressing that Neighborhood Watch will work only if its volunteers become strong partners with local police officers and the 50th Ward aldermanic office. To do that, volunteers will need the commitment, positive energy, optimism, cooperative attitude, and time necessary to make the program successful.

Sgt. Shawn Sisk of the 24th District CAPS Office at the February 6, 2017, Neighborhood Watch Program organizational meeting.

Sgt. Shawn Sisk of the 24th District CAPS Office at the February 6, 2017, West Ridge Neighborhood Watch Program organizational meeting.

Volunteers will help to identify questionable activities and situations that put residents and property at risk by walking or riding bikes in teams throughout the neighborhood, noting but not acting on potential problems and issues that are properly dealt with by the police or the ward office. Witnessing a crime in progress, for example, warrants a call to 911, whereas noticing piles of garbage that could house rats would mean a 311 report or call to the ward office.

Sisk also made it clear that volunteers, who must be age 21 or older, would not have any police authority and must not represent themselves as cops. Volunteers themselves must obey the law and may not carry weapons, even if they have concealed carry permits. Volunteers may not use police scanners, take photos or videos, or chase after wrongdoers. They may walk or ride bikes, but vehicles are not permitted. They can bring their dogs along, although the kids are better left at home. Any member of the community is welcome to join the Neighborhood Watch, which does not practice or tolerate any form of discrimination.

Each volunteer will wear a bright yellow jacket emblazoned with the Neighborhood Watch emblem. Jackets will be paid for by the police and the ward office, not the volunteers. Sgt. Sisk is wearing the jacket in the photo above.

I had to leave early so I missed the discussions and audience Q&A led by the beat facilitators representing Beats 2411, 2412, and 2413. For more information or to become part of the Neighborhood Watch, please contact the CAPS office or your Beat Facilitator:

24th District Community Policing Office: 312/744-6321 or caps24.org

Beat 2411 (Kedzie to Ridge, Pratt to Howard)
Beat Faclitator Richard Concaildi – richconcaildi@aol.com

Beat 2412 (Kedzie to Ridge, Pratt to Devon)
Beat Faclitator Avy Meyers- avy@ureach.com

Beat 2413 (Kedzie to Ridge, Devon to Peterson)
Beat Facilitator: beat2413@caps24.org