By Pam DeFiglio, Patch.com
A Niles North High School graduate and member of the Skokie Police Explorers told the Skokie village board at its last meeting that Skokie isn't as safe today as when she was a child, and she fears for her younger brother and cousins.
Reine Hanna, who attended Oakton Community College and works as a paralegal, started her address by hailing the positive changes she's seen in Skokie, such as new businesses coming in and renovations in the parks.
But "one of the biggest changes I’ve noticed is that Skokie has lost its sense of safety," she said, emphasizing she was speaking up because she loves the town and wants everyone to feel safe.
"My aunt has three kids, she doesn’t allow them to play outside except under close supervision," Hanna continued. "She only takes them to the park in the morning. My neighbor has seen drug deals at Oakton Park.
"My family’s business (on Oakton Street) has gotten complaints about intimidating groups of individuals that linger outside."
She recounted an incident when she was dropping off a 16-year-old family friend, and she pulled into her driveway, and suddenly a man approached and started tugging at her car's door handles, which, luckily, were locked. The man ran away, but the incident left her shaken.
"My own (incident) went unreported because I panicked and I only wanted to feel safe again. My grandparents’ went unreported because they don’t speak English well. My neighbor didn’t report the drug deal because she didn’t want to get involved," Hanna explained.
She asked several questions; about the police department's plan to acquire a mobile unit, crime prevention, when the promised town hall meeting on crime would take place and police staffing levels.
Mayor George Van Dusen told Hanna that the level of police staffing is the highest it has ever been, and a study is underway to determine if increased staffing is needed.
Residents are encouraged to sign up for Neighborhood Watch programs, of which the village now has 200, he said. He gave an example of a woman seeing something odd and when her husband called police, they apprehended a suspect who was there to burglarize a home.
Hanna questioned whether that would work for her grandparents, who live in a multi-unit building, and Van Dusen said the police chief has told him the approach is as effective for multi-family buildings as well as single-family homes.
Van Dusen also said the mobile police station would establish a police presence in neighborhoods, as well as give neighbors a chance to meet with police.
"This is something used in other areas of the country as a preventive measure," he said.