We do have a crime issue in Skokie and I for one am ready to address it head on. I've read the studies, seen the data and believe it's time for action and time to address the concerns of residents.
I just don't understand why village officials and the slated candidates are so afraid to admit there is something that we need to fix in Skokie. They only say, "We need to focus on what's good and great in the village." Our village cannot stay great if we don't address crime.
What about the issues that are raising the eyebrows of not just long-time residents, but also those residents who have moved here more recently? Some of these newcomers have made comments on public message boards, questioning their choice to make Skokie their home. Others have stated that their children are afraid to play outside. These are not the types of comments we should be reading about our community. There shouldn't be any areas in Skokie that are viewed as scary. Nobody should be afraid to walk our streets anytime - day or night.
Village officials maintain that the concerns and fears of the residents are the manifestations of the "perception of some." In fact, while summarizing the results of the 2012 National Citizens Survey in the recent copy of NewSkokie (Feb/Mar 2013), the official village response is that Skokie is safe and the solution to the perception of crime is that "different types of communications and community education are needed to align public opinion with public safety realities." (Pg. 4).
The village’s answer to addressing crime is to convince people through "education" that crime is not a problem. I think that's ridiculous.
It's true that random incidents happen in every community, but the types of crimes on the rise in Skokie are not happening in every community. This is not the Skokie that we remember. Here are just a few of the recent incidents on our streets that many residents find unsettling:
- 05/23/12 - A 20-year-old is the target of a shooting in the 4900 block of Louis Avenue.
- 06/14/12 -The victim of the above incident , during rush hour, at a major intersection - Skokie Boulevard and Oakton Street.
- 11/24/12 - A family's living room and bedroom windows are shot at. One of the younger family members was home watching TV. This happened just one block from my house.
- 01/20/13 - A man Police said the attack might have been the result of a drug transaction gone bad.
- 01/26/13 - while unloading her groceries in broad daylight. The offender is still at large.
- 02/03/13 - A man is a victim of battery while walking to visit his girlfriend.
- 02/10/13 - A man is robbed at gunpoint while waiting for friends at Taco Bell, 8329 Skokie Blvd.
- 02/11/13 – Several shots are fired through a window of an apartment building in 4800 block of Greenleaf Street around 2 a.m.
- 02/14/13 - Chicago police execute a search warrant and arrest two males on narcotics charges. The Chicago Police Department’s arrest came just three days after the Greenleaf Street shooting.
- 02/14/13 – A male teen is beaten and robbed of his shoes, iPhone, and skateboard in the 4800 Elm Street by six offenders on Feb. 14.
Is crime only a "perception" issue?
This is in addition to the plethora of other crimes and dangerous situations occurring in Skokie. And let’s not forget the crimes that go unreported.
I have personally spoken to many officers at the Skokie Police Department. They believe we need more officers on our streets. They have communicated this to village officials and to residents who have inquired. I believe we need more police in order to establish a greater presence and to have proactive, rather than reactive, policing. I can't tell you the exact number of officers that are needed. I recently made a formal inquiry to receive the communications between police staff and village officials on this issue. My request was denied.
As an Independent candidate running for village trustee, some of my opponents seem to be dancing around the issue when asked if they believe Skokie needs more officers. Some say that we need to hire more, some say we can just reallocate our current staff, while others believe putting cameras in the parks or having smart phone apps will help resolve our crime issue.
Here’s my question: Why do we need apps and cameras at our parks if crime in our community is only a “perception?” Why are certain parks dubbed “hot spots?” And which parks are those?
Some of my opponents have also indicated that hiring more police could jeopardize the financial standing of the village because it is a 30-year commitment per officer (despite not being staffed at budgeted levels already). But this assumes that we have to keep increased staffing levels forever. They don't take into account that as needs change, so can staffing levels through officer retirement and attrition.
I believe that we must engage the residents, empower them and bring them into the process. We have to be honest in addressing the issues that face our community, crime being one of them. We need to create a culture where people feel safe in their neighborhoods. For decades, Skokie has been a community where people have been proud to raise their families. Now, Skokie's reputation is on the line. If we are too afraid to address the problem, then the greatness of Skokie will be diminished.
I look forward to working with all Skokie residents to bring about positive change. The time to act is now.