In light of a recent increase in neighborhood theft, Beverly residents are wondering where the police are.
A number of residents have expressed concern about what they see as a lack of presence of Chicago police in the neighborhood. The reported a decrease in overall crime, but both the police and residents of Beverly have noticed a significant increase in local robberies and burglaries.
“They’re in our neighborhood every night breaking into cars,” said Jim Smith, a Beverly resident and victim of neighborhood crime. “I’ve had a gutter stolen, a car stolen, they’ve broken into my car twice in two years. We need to step up and take back this neighborhood.”
Groups like the Beverly Ridge Homeowner’s Association are working, as citizens, to ensure the safety of their neighbors against these crimes.
“One of the things we’re doing within the BRHA is trying to look at Rudy Giuliani’s broken windows theory,” said Nick Stiglich, treasurer of the BRHA. Stiglich and other board members are working on a project to revamp one of the neighborhood’s main train stations; the result would include more lighting and added security for those who use the station.
Beverly residents say making the neighborhood safer is a joint effort between them and police, but are looking for more on the part of police officers.
Ald. Matt O’Shea of the 19th Ward, which includes Beverly, said the police are doing the best they can.
“They’re not lazy and they’re not sitting on their hands,” O’Shea said. “They’re out there each and every day working to protect each and every one of us.”
But residents like Bernadette Molloy remain unconvinced about the reliability of police response. Molloy, who is also a realtor in the Beverly area, thinks problems lie in the way police, as well as 911 call-takers, respond to calls.
“We call 911 and we’re challenged,” Molloy said. “There’s a suspicious person, and now we have to answer 20 questions as to what color he’s got on and what he’s wearing, why we think he’s suspicious – if I call and say, ‘There’s a suspicious person outside,’ that, just on its basis, means I’m threatened in some way. What do we have to do to get an immediate response?”
Sergeant Anne Lewis of the 22nd district said the police are aware of the increasing incidents, but can only do so much with the resources available.
“We are doing our best to get manpower out there,” said Lewis, “whether it’s beat officers being aware or whether it’s trying to get those incident cars in areas that need them.”
Regarding police response to 911 calls, Lewis says it all depends on priority. “If we had 50 squad cars and there were 50 assignments, and all the squad cars were gone, that next assignment would wait,” Lewis said. “It depends on the call-taker, how they’d categorize that call; if they made it an ‘auto-theft in progress,’ that would be higher, but if they made it a ‘suspicious person,’ that wouldn’t be quite as high. The dispatchers only go according to whatever’s entered into the computer.”
One of the bigger concerns among a number of Beverly residents is seeing police on the street. Residents say that they have seen less of police walking and driving through the neighborhood regularly.
Lewis said in addition to squad cars assigned to patrol the area, there are officers assigned to man the streets on walking beats. “
Now, if beat cars are down and we have to man a beat car, the walking post will be pulled off to man the beat car,” Lewis said. “For the most part, the walking post officers if they’re working that day they’re on their post.”
Lewis said she understands residents’ concerns but occasionally officers assigned to particular beats, or neighborhoods, have to leave the area to attend to a crime in progress.
Lewis said officers are supposed to follow beat integrity, meaning they are supposed to stay within their beat, “But, unfortunately, that’s not necessarily possible,” she said.
“If in beat 2222, that car is down, say, on an arrest, and there’s a shooting on that beat, we can’t say, ‘well, sorry, we’re not sending the police when your beat’s down,’ so they will pull from somewhere else in the district,” she said.
But many, including the area’s alderman, think the addition of extra manpower in the area would not be the best course of action.
“The 22nd district has some of the safest beats in the entire city,” O’Shea said, “so if there were to be an infusion of additional officers, it’d be in Englewood and it’d be on the West Side where people are getting shot each and every day.”
Beverly residents have been instructed to take more preventative measures to avoid becoming a victim to the crimes that have been plaguing the area. O’Shea and other community leaders encourage residents to make sure doors are locked, to be aware of surroundings, and to immediately call 911 if they see something suspicious or a crime occurs.