Monday, April 30, 2012

Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch Plans "Awareness" Event for June 2

Members of the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch (GRNW) are asking everyone in the community to "save the date" and make plans to attend a "neighborhood awareness" event set for 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Saturday, June 2 at the northeast corner of Archer and Nashville.

"Awareness leads to action; and action leads to a better and safer Garfield Ridge for everyone," stated GRNW President Al Cacciottolo. "We plan to have something for everyone at this event---from young children to senior citizens and everyone in between---so please come on out and join us."

The event will be held on the parking lots of the Archer Heights Credit Union and Lindy's Chili.

A number of law enforcement agencies and local businesses will have tables set up to offer useful services and free information, including:
  • child fingerprinting
  • bicycle registration
  • document shredding
  • home security
  • fire safety
  • drug and alcohol awareness and prevention for children and teenagers
  • senior citizen services
  • CAPS and police canine unit
  • and more.
Food and refreshments will also be available, including hot dogs, snow cones, cotton candy, popcorn, lemonade and water.

Balloons will also be provided for local children.

# # #

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Local Crime Roundup

Editor's note: The crime news reported by the Southwest Chicago Post---taken directly from Chicago Police Department incident reports---is not by any means an exhaustive catalogue of all crime reported in the Chicago Lawn (8th) District. For example, it typically does not include news of crimes committed in the eastern and southern sectors of the district---because the Southwest Chicago Post's coverage area is primarily the neighborhoods that border Midway Airport and secondarily because including the relatively large volume of crime news from elsewhere in the district would be a logistical challenge. We make this note to offer a little helpful perspective and remind everyone that while crime is definitely a concern in all parts of the district (as it always has been), crime remains relatively low overall in Sector 1. May all of us work together diligently to keep it that way.

* * *

Miguel Lara
Two men and two teenage boys were arrested in connection with what police called a gang-related crime committed on the street near Pippin and Hamlin just after 1:00 a.m. Saturday, April 28.

Taken into custody were 24-year-old Miguel Lara,19-year-old Adrian Alejos and a 16-year-old boy, all of the South Lawndale neighborhood; and a 17-year-old boy from the Brighton Park neighborhood.

Lara was charged with unlawful use of a weapon. Alejos was charged with a lesser, misdemeanor crime.

A witness who called 911 said he heard gunfire and then saw muzzle flashes from a gun fired by someone in a white SUV.

Responding to the "shots fired" call, police heading south on Pulaski saw a vehicle matching the description, heading north on Pulaski, away from the scene. They wheeled around, turned on their emergency lights and curbed the SUV on Pulaski.

Upon learning that the driver had no driver's license, police ordered all four occupants out. As Miguel Lara exited the vehicle, police said they saw a spent shell casing fall out of his clothing and saw another on the seat where he had just been sitting.

Upon further investigation, police said they saw blood on Miguel Lara's hand, between his thumb and index finger---a wound compatible with those sometimes sustained when firing a hand gun. Police also reportedly found blood on the inside of the driver's-side rear door, and a blue steel, semi-automatic handgun in the door vent.

When questioned, none of the four would admit owning the gun, which was unregistered.

All four were then arrested; and their SUV was impounded by police.

* * *

A convenience store clerk with a gun to his head was forced to empty the cash register and hand it over to a masked robber at the 7-Eleven located at 4353 West 55th Street.

At about 1:45 a.m. Friday, April 27, the 32-year-old clerk was walking out of the store's back room when he noticed a man standing at the front counter. The man then drew a hand gun and committed the crime. The clerk handed over about $300 cash from the register; but on the way out, the offender unknowingly dropped $85 on the floor. He fled the store, but the clerk could not say in which direction.

The clerk described the robber as a black man, 20-22 years old, 5'11 and 160 pounds, wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, dark jeans and a gray scarf covering his face.

* * *

A burglar cut through a security gate, broke into a metal trailer and stole assorted tools from Kazmier Tooling, 6001 South Oak Park, at about 11:00 p.m. Saturday, April 28.

A witness who lives nearby told police he had seen a man going through the security gate and leaving with a bag in his arms. No other description was provided.

* * *

A 53-year-old Archer Heights woman was robbed of her purse as she walked to a grocery store at 9:30 p.m. Friday, April 27.

Walking through a parking lot at 5220 South Pulaski, the woman was approached from behind by the offender, described as a 25-30-year-old black man. The offender pushed her up against a parked car, snatched her purse and ran south on Pulaski. The victim told police her purse contained personal identification and about $50 cash.

* * *

A 24-year-old West Elsdon man was robbed of his wallet and $40 cash as he rode his bicycle down the street at 10:50 p.m. Saturday, April 28.

Riding at 5020 South Archer (near Komensky), the man was curbed by four men in a white pickup truck. The men got out, pushed the victim to the ground, searched his pockets and then rode away after robbing him. The victim described the four as white Hispanic men, all about 5'7 and 160 pounds.

* * *

A 28-year-old gang member from the Chicago Lawn neighborhood was hospitalized early Saturday, April 28 after he was shot while riding in a car with three adult family members at 47th and Pulaski.

At about 2:45 a.m., the victim's car---a 2006 Lincoln Continental---was approached at the intersection by a maroon Lincoln Navigator SUV. Inside were four white Hispanic men about 20-23 years old, according to the victim's relatives. A passenger in the rear of the Navigator then allegedly threw a glass bottle at the victim's car; in turn, one of the victim's relatives threw a glass bottle at the Navigator.

At that point, according to the victim's relatives, one of the men in the Navigator drew a hand gun and fired at the Continental. Several bullets struck the car's exterior, and one hit the victim (who was a passenger in the front seat) in the right side of his back.

The Navigator then sped north on Pulaski to the Stevenson Expressway, where it made a left turn and headed onto the southbound entrance ramp.

The victim's relatives drove him to Mount Sinai Hospital, where they were later questioned by police.

* * *

A 74-year-old West Lawn woman was robbed of her debit card at 10:50 a.m. Friday, April 27 at the Ford City shopping center, 7601 South Cicero.

Moments after completing a transaction at an ATM near the mall's food court, the woman was accosted from behind by a man who quickly reached over her shoulder, snatched the card away and fled. The victim described the offender as about 18-25 years old, 5'7 and wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, dark baggy jeans and red gym shoes.

* * *

Burglars forced open an overhead door of a garage near 56th and Kolin and stole several items from the Pontiac Grand Prix parked inside, including a car stereo, an amplifier and speakers. Additionally, the burglars smashed the passenger-side windows and slashed the passenger-side tires, as well as damaged the trunk lock.

The crime was discovered by the victim, a 20-year-old man, at 10:00 a.m. Friday, April 27. He told police he believes he knows who committed the crime, but then refused to provide police with a name of the suspect.

* * *

Burglars pried open the side door of a garage near 52nd and Kolmar and stole a circular saw, a chain saw, a pressure washer, a snow blower, a lawn trimmer, two cordless drills and about 10 assorted hand tools.

The crime was discovered by the victim, a 66-year-old man, at about 9:00 a.m. Friday, April 27.

* * *

A 51-year-old man who left his garage unattended at 2:00 p.m. Friday, April 27 while he went to a gas station to buy gas for his lawn mower, returned 30 minutes later to his home near 78th and Springfield to find that a burglar had stolen his lawn mower and a 10-speed bicycle from the garage.

# # #

Friday, April 27, 2012

City Inspectors Shut Down Club Karlov; No "Night Rave" on 47th Street Tonight

The area around 47th and Karlov should be a lot quieter tonight than had been anticipated, now that a scheduled Noches de Reventon ("night rave") dance party has apparently been cancelled after city inspectors ordered the shutdown of Club Karlov, 4058 West 47th Street.

"We are very glad the city took quick action on this site," stated Archer Heights Civic Association (AHCA) Executive Director Thomas Baliga, whose organization had received several complaints from neighbors and which also saw information about the rave posted on the Internet. "All complainants had serious reservations about the capacity of that hall, parking problems and potential liquor consumption. The event was an advertised commercial production that stated there were going to be six bands/groups and two DJ's performing. One of the bands alone had 17 members."

"This place does not have a PPA (Public Place of Amusement License) and as such, cannot stage events of this kind," Baliga added. "There is parking for only about 20 cars in a lot adjacent to the east side of the building; so several questions arose as to how a small neighborhood hall could possibly handle the anticipated capacity of such a mega-event."

In addition to not having a PPA license, inspectors noted that Club Karlov does not have the required city license to sell food at a special event.

According to city records, Club Karlov's business license (as a tavern) is held by Juan Rocha, Jose Guadalupe Ledesma and Manuel Ledesma.

Many Archer Heights residents recall Club Karlov as a neighborhood tavern run by Bruno and Henrietta Kopec, from when they purchased the building in 1972 until Bruno's death in 2001 at age 75.

The Southwest Chicago Post has also learned that Club Karlov has a posted legal capacity of 225 people; and the upstairs hall has 16 tables of eight chairs each---which explains some neighbors' concerns that the building could not handle the large crowd anticipated at the event, which was advertised as starting at 7:00 p.m. tonight and running to 3:00 a.m. Saturday.

Additionally, SWCP has learned that Chicago Fire Department inspectors issued several tickets for code violations earlier this week.

Noches de Revention was organized by Prestige Chicago, an entertainment booking and promotion company headquartered at 1900 South Western and owned by 23-year-old Ruben Pantoja, who bills himself professionally as Ruben Prestige. Pantoja books disc jockeys, exotic dancers from the GOGO Dancer5 group, and more---including rental of a "party bus" that offers club-hopping transport for people who don't want to drink and drive.

Prestige Chicago also stages "Thirsty Thursday" events weekly at Club Karlov, which typically run until 2:00 a.m.

Pantoja, who had predicted on the Club Karlov Facebook page that the Noches de Reventon event would be "...ONE HELL OF A BAILE AT CLUB KARLOV!", did not respond to a Southwest Chicago Post request for comment on the shutdown; yet he appeared in good spirits late Friday afternoon. In a message he Tweeted and posted on the Ruben Prestige page on Facebook, regarding a "Back It Up & Juke!" party he is staging tonight at a hookah lounge near Belmont and Laramie, he wrote:


# # #

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Local Crime Roundup

Editor's note: The crime news reported by the Southwest Chicago Post---taken directly from Chicago Police Department incident reports---is not by any means an exhaustive catalogue of all crime reported in the Chicago Lawn (8th) District. For example, it typically does not include news of crimes committed in the eastern and southern sectors of the district---because the Southwest Chicago Post's coverage area is primarily the neighborhoods that border Midway Airport and secondarily because including the relatively large volume of crime news from elsewhere in the district would be a logistical challenge. We make this note to offer a little helpful perspective and remind everyone that while crime is definitely a concern in all parts of the district (as it always has been), crime remains relatively low overall in Sector 1. May all of us work together diligently to keep it that way.

* * *

An armed robber stole $15,000 at gunpoint from the New 79th & Pulaski Currency Exchange, 4051 West 79th Street.

At about 9:00 a.m. Tuesday, April 24, just as a 49-year-old clerk was unlocking the front door to start the business day, she was accosted from behind by the offender, whom she described as a 20-30-year-old black man, 5'2 and 140 pounds with black hair and wearing a black jacket.

The offender grabbed the clerk, shoved her inside and started yelling, "Open up the door!" (the door that leads from the lobby to the back room). He then grabbed the keys from the clerk and opened the door himself, forcing her to the back room after he pulled out a hand gun.

Still threatening her with the gun, he ordered her to open the safe. She did, and the robber took all the cash inside.

He then ran back to the lobby to make his escape, but discovered that the currency exchange's security system had automatically locked the front door. So he shot out the door's window, crawled through, and fled south on Komensky.

* * *

Two robbers stole a wallet and a cell phone from a dental office at 5332 South Archer at about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, April 24.

The offenders were described as a 21-25-year-old black woman wearing a green and white jacket; and a 21-25-year-old black man wearing blue jeans and a black and white jacket.

The crime began when the two offenders entered the dental office and the female offender attempted to distract the receptionist by asking, "Is the doctor still giving blood tests?" As that occurred, the male offender ducked into a side door and snatched a cell phone off a desk and a wallet out of a purse.

He then looked at the receptionist and put his hand in his pocket---implying he had a weapon. The two then ran out the front door and fled north on Archer.

* * *

A 28-year-old Archer Heights man foiled an attempted armed robbery when he stepped on the gas pedal in his 2002 Chevrolet truck and sped away from the intersection at 49th and Karlov, as a would-be offender fired several shots but missed both the man and his truck.

The incident occurred at 2:55 a.m. Monday, April 23. The Archer Heights man was stopped at the intersection when he was approached by the offender, who asked for a cigarette. The driver told him that he had no cigarettes. The offender then mumbled something unintelligible, which is when the motorist decided to speed away.

The offender was described as a 24-26 white Hispanic man, 5'11 and 155 pounds, short black hair, brown eyes, olive complexion, with a tear drop-shaped tattoo below his right eye. He was also said to be wearing a white t-shirt, black jeans and a black baseball cap.

* * *

A 17-year-old Clearing boy was taken into custody on Tuesday, April 24 after a neighbor told police she caught him in her house without permission.

The 48-year-old victim told police that she left her home near 64th and Lorel at about 9:30 a.m. to go shopping. When she returned home at about 12:30 p.m., she noticed her back door ajar; and then reportedly saw the boy, the son of a neighbor friend, walking out. She confronted the boy, who claimed he was in her home because he had forgotten his wallet. She ordered him to leave, and he did.

The victim then called the boy's father, who immediately came home from work and spoke with the victim. The two agreed to notify police. Officers responding to the 911 call found no sign of forced entry at the rear door; but did find palm prints on a window sill where a screen was slightly open and the window was unlocked. A CPD evidence technician was called to the scene to investigate further.

The victim told police she was not sure if anything was taken from her home.

* * *

Several members of a West Lawn family returned home from work at about 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, April 24 to discover that their front door had been forced open, with its window smashed and the door frame damaged.

The bedrooms on the main floor of the home near 62nd and Kostner had been ransacked. Missing were two laptop computers, an iPod and its case, and a spare set of keys to a BMW 330i automobile parked in the garage. Also, the side door to the garage was open, although there was no sign of damage or theft---with the car still inside. Additionally, a basement window at the home was broken into and the basement ransacked---although the family could not see anything missing from the basement at first glance.

* * *

Burglars stole miscellaneous tools after prying open the side door of a garage near 45th and Springfield. The crime was discovered at about 5:00 p.m. Monday, April 23 by the victim, a 32-year-old man.

* * *

Burglars pried open the side door of a garage near 46th and Harding and stole two bicycles, as well as $2,000 cash from the driver's side door pocket of a car parked in the garage, according to the victim, a 40-year-old man. The crime was discovered at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 25.

* * *

A 38-year-old West Lawn woman told police that her apartment near 67th and Pulaski was burglarized during the day on Wednesday, April 25.

She said that when she came home from work at about 4:15 p.m., she discovered her back door open. Stolen were a 42-inch TV, a Nintendo Wii console and a computer printer.

A witness described the burglar as an 18-year-old white Hispanic woman, 5'4 and 130 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair.

Police said that a security camera at a nearby business captured images of the offender in her car, as well as turning the camera away from herself.

# # #

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Community Gathers to Honor the Memory of Police Commander John Kupczyk

Earlier today, Chicago Police officials, elected officials, clergy and members of the community joined the Kupczyk family to unveil new street signs that give honorary designation (Commander John Kupczyk Way) to a block of 63rd Street, directly in front of the CPD Eighth District Station.

The Southwest Chicago Post was on hand to help capture the ceremony (in photo and video) to honor the late Commander Kupczyk, a good and decent man---liked, respected and admired by so many.

Commander John Kupczyk

"Moment of unveiling" photo above courtesy of CPD News Affairs.

Video highlights at:

# # #

Surge at 55th St. Mental Health Cinic? Ashland Clinic Patients Coming to Area

The imminent shutdown of half of the Chicago Department of Public Health's (CDPH) mental health clinics is expected to result next month in a surge of mentally ill men and women in and around the remaining clinics, including the Greater Lawn Mental Health Center, 4150 West 55th Street.

And while health professionals generally agree that people with mental illness are no more prone to crime or violence than people who are not mentally ill---in fact, data show that people with mental illness are more likely to be crime and violence victims that the rest of the population---the clinic's neighbors are expressing concern that they were not consulted or even notified about the surge.

"They're doing what?" asked a woman who lives just a half block away from the clinic, and who asked that her name be withheld. "Some of these patients in the clinic walk up and down 55th Street, to and from Pulaski, bumming cigarettes and eating and drinking while they go; and they throw their garbage on the ground. Or else they walk up Kedvale or Karlov or Komensky to and from the Jewel's, doing the same thing. And now we're going to have more of this? Why didn't (Mayor) Emanuel or the Health Department ask us? Why didn't our alderman tell us?"

"Nobody notified us," added a man who has lived for nearly 30 years with his family in a home directly across from the clinic. "We haven't had a lot of problems with the clinic---some litter that blows around, and there have been a couple of car break-ins in their lot, but I don't know who was responsible for that. But frankly, I don't know how they're going to handle all these people coming over from the clinic on Ashland. That parking lot is already jammed on days when both the mental health clinic and WIC clinic are open. I don't know where they're going to park."

Apparently, the Health Department failed to bring local community groups into the loop, as well. Representatives from both the Archer Heights Civic Association and the West Elsdon Civic Association expressed surprise upon hearing the news from the Southwest Chicago Post.

AHCA officials declined to comment further, since the clinic is two blocks south of Archer Heights' southern boundary. But West Elsdon Civic Association President James Mazenis said, "We have not heard this at all. This is a shot that's completely out of the blue. It would have been good to know (ahead of time)."

Mazenis said that his group has, in years past, supported the needs of the clinic by hosting a successful coat drive for mental health patients and by donating infant and children's clothing for the WIC clinic's patients. Saying he could not recall any past complaints relating to the clinic, he said he would take a "wait and see" approach to the coming increase in mentally ill patients.

A man who lives near the clinic and said he receives mental health care there, expressed concern about the coming surge for a different reason. "These changes are being rammed down our throats. Nobody I know wants them. I read what the Health Department sent me, and it has this insulting tone---like 'Don't worry, be happy' or 'Trust us, we're from the government'; A lot of us (patients) are very worried that this whole thing is going to be turmoil and confusion---that we won't get to see our regular therapists, that waiting times will double. It's a lot of stress and anguish, for no good reason. This is not what I voted for when I voted for Rahm Emanuel. He talks so much about re-building the city's infrastructure, but what about our mental health infrastructure? Why do we get bulldozed?"

According to figures included in an analysis of the shutdown by mental health advocates, Greater Lawn's current patient count of 538 will surge to 844 after the April 30 shutdown of CDPH's Back of the Yards Mental Health Center, 4313 South Ashland. Uninsured patients there will be transferred to Greater Lawn---assuming they choose that, which almost all are expected to do.

Additionally, Greater Lawn's count could go even higher if some or most of the 354 mentally ill patients at the soon-to-be-shuttered CDPH Beverly-Morgan Park MHC, 1987 West 111th Street, decline to be directed east to the CDPH Roseland MHC and instead head north to Greater Lawn.

The surge should also affect operations at another CDPH clinic housed in the Greater Lawn Public Health Center building at 55th and Keeler---an already-crowded clinic just inside the main entrance, which provides basic clinical care and WIC vouchers to local women and children in need.

The Southwest Chicago Post contacted CDPH (Bechara Choucair, Commissioner) and asked for clarification about "the projected impact of the mental health clinic consolidations on the Greater Lawn Mental Health Center."

SWCP asked, "Do you have any projected figures to share, especially in terms of current caseload and projected caseload once the consolidations occur? Any on-record statements about the plan as it relates to GLMHC?"

A CDPH spokeswoman replied promptly, but not with anything specific to the Greater Lawn MHC:

"We just posted an update on the transitions for the two clinics that already consolidated. I think that would be helpful to you. Here is the link:
Let me know if you have any questions."

The SWCP replied, "Thank you for sharing the link to the document. It does not specifically relate to the projected impact of the mental health clinic consolidations on the Greater Lawn Mental Health Center. Do you have any projected figures to share, especially in terms of current caseload and projected caseload at GLMHC once the consolidations occur? Any on-record statements about the plan as it relates to GLMHC?"

CDPH has not replied.


While provision of care for the indigent mentally ill is the legal responsibility of state government, the City of Chicago---starting in the 1960s under the administration of Mayor Richard J. Daley---began to shoulder an increasing share of the load. By the late 1980s, CDPH offered outpatient mental health care to men, women and children at 18 well-staffed clinics spread out across the city.

Over the last two decades, however, the city's commitment eroded steadily. The administration of Mayor Richard M. Daley (with the approval of most of the city's aldermen) consistently chipped away at city funding of mental health; and the number of city mental health clinics fell to 12.

Additionally, in 2009, frustrated over the fact that clinic staffing levels that had plummeted to "levels that are dangerous to both patients and remaining clinic staff," then-CDPH Commissioner Terry Mason, M.D. attempted to shut four clinics and consolidate staff into the remaining eight. That plan was reversed by Daley after several activists sat in the lobby of the Mayor's Office and refused to leave.

The small sit-in prompted meetings between activists and mayoral staff---resulting in the clinics remaining open; but also in funding and staffing promises that went almost entirely unmet by Daley, activists later said.

Mental health advocates in 2012 are equally scornful of the current plan by the Emanuel Administration to shutter six clinics.

CDPH states on the City of Chicago website that its remaining mental health services will now "...focus on the uninsured. By consolidating our centers from 12 to 6, we will continue to serve 3,000 uninsured clients and have the capacity to serve 1,000 Medicaid/Medicare clients per year. These changes allow us to increase our psychiatry services and improve efficiency at our sites."

CDPH further maintains that all its patients "...will continue to receive equal or better quality mental health services..." and "CDPH will continue to provide services to approximately 80% of its current clients (mostly uninsured)" and "about 20% of our clients (602 clients with insurance) will be served by community mental health providers - all of which have capacity to serve clients with Medicaid" and "all CDPH mental health centers will be fully staffed to meet the needs of our clients" and "a Quality Team will monitor the transition of all clients for at least 90 days after the transition to ensure continuity of care."

Activists have multiple criticisms of Emanuel's plan, claiming it is filled with unwarranted assumptions, flawed logic, exaggerations, and lies of omission and commission. They claim that attempting to transition 20 percent of CDPH patients to private providers amounts to little more than patient dumping; and that hundreds of CDPH patients living with chronic mental illness will wind up going without care and/or medications, destabilizing them and resulting in a downward spiral that will see otherwise stable, law-abiding Chicago men and women wind up in already overcrowded homeless shelters and jails; or even in some cases, dead.

To offer a constructive alternative to Emanuel's plan, activists led by the Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP) organization produced a plan designed to keep all 12 city clinics open by shifting existing resources at CDPH. Link to the report:

STOP, along with the Community Mental Health Board of Chicago and other groups and individual advocates, say they have have repeatedly requested a meeting with Mayor Emanuel---starting with when he was a mayoral candidate and continuing to the present day---but have been consistently rebuffed.

In response, activists have staged public protests that include disrupting a ceremony at which Emanuel received an award from New Trier High School; disrupting a CDPH staff meeting at which a few CDPH nurses put duct tape over their mouths as a silent protest while some other staff cheered when activists shouted down Commissioner Choucair; and barricading themselves inside the CDPH Woodlawn MHC in an "Occupy" type of protest.

Details about the protests can be found at:  and

Activists continue to urge all Chicagoans to contact the Mayor at 312-744-3300 to express displeasure with the clinic shutdowns.

# # #

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Police Offer Advice on Burglary Prevention

About 75 Southwest Side men and women attended a Chicago Police burglary prevention seminar on Saturday, April 21 at Richard J. Daley College.

The seminar included ex-offenders sharing their secrets on how a burglar thinks: including how they choose which home or garage to burglarize, common mistakes that homeowners make, and more----all in the interest of offering practical steps people can take to minimize their risk of being a burglary victim.

The ex-offenders are participants in the Safer Foundation’s “Keepin’ It Real” program, started by Chicago Police Officer Maudessie Jointer about five years ago to connect former criminals with the community in constructive ways.

Regrettably, that portion of the seminar is not included in this video. Shortly before the ex-offenders were introduced, Officer Jointer asked that all video recording cease---despite the fact that the public was invited to the seminar, and that it was conducted with public funding in the public interest at a publicly-funded college.

That aside, this video shows Chicago Police Detective Ronald Skrip walking the audience through the basics of burglary prevention.

The video is long (40 minutes) and visually plain. But it features plenty of good, solid advice from an experienced, knowledgable law enforcement professional, for which the audience---judging by its questions and applause---was most grateful.

Special thanks to CPD Sergeant Allen Cain for putting it together, as well everyone else at the Eighth District who made it possible.

Video link:

# # #

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Clear Ridge Baseball Opening Day Parade

One of the surest signs of spring in Garfield Ridge and Clearing is Clear Ridge Baseball's Opening Day Parade.

We shot some good photos and video of the parade, which stepped off from Wentworth Park and ended at Hale Park.

We wish all players, coaches, managers, parents and grandparents a season filled with fun and good sportsmanship.

Video of the parade:

# # #

When 911 Hung Up On Me

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

As a lifelong Southwest Sider---and a homeowner and business owner---I care a lot about this unique part of our great city, just as you do.

NYC "See Something, Say Something" Poster
And of course, crime prevention is important to me. I proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with all Southwest Siders---like you---who absolutely refuse to accept criminal activity and who refuse to accept anything less than clean, safe neighborhoods in which to live, work, play, study, worship, shop, and more. Neighborhoods where we can raise our families and grow old in peace and comfort. Neighborhoods where "the good old days" are now---because we made it that way by working together.

When it comes to reporting crime, I completely agree with the law enforcement slogan, "If you see something, say something"---and I praise the Chicago Police Department's Eighth District staff, from Commander McNaughton to the beat officers and everyone in between, for pushing that concept relentlessly at public meetings across the Southwest Side.

So with that in mind, I want to say that I have been very hesitant to write about the 911-related experience I had recently, if only because I don't want to give anyone the impression that calling 911 when necessary is not a good idea. It is.

But on the other hand, if something needs fixing---well, a good newspaper will not ignore it but address it in a constructive way.

So here goes: At about 7:56 p.m. Friday, April 6, I was standing in front of my home in Garfield Ridge when I noticed a man across the street, going door to door in the dark.

I guessed he was a salesman of some sort---but I found it odd that he would go door to door after dark (which frankly almost never occurs), and even more odd that he seemed to be skipping houses where inside lights were on and instead ringing bells at darkened houses.

So, based upon multiple times over the past year when I heard CPD officials at local public meetings insist that people call 911 for anything at all that may seem suspicious, I called 911 from my cell phone.

But much to my surprise, the 911 operator---in so many words---declined to dispatch a CPD unit and basically informed me that what I was describing was not suspicious.

She told me that there's no law against soliciting door to door. Stunned at her refusal to dispatch police to check it out, I conceded to her that it may very well be that he's entirely legitimate; but said that I thought what I had described (especially the skipping houses part) would be enough to raise a red flag.

But nope, she said, no dice.

So the call ended. I couldn't believe that I was reporting what may have been a crime in progress, and 911 was essentially hanging up on me.

So, I did something the police always say not to do---take action myself. I know that's potentially dangerous, but I also know that burglars typically flee if they are confronted. The last thing a burglar wants is a fight or any type of loud confrontation that draws attention.

And besides, there's just no way I'm going to let my neighbors' homes get hit by some two-bit, petty criminal if I can do something to stop it. Here on the Southwest Side, we work too hard for what we have to turn away in fear or apathy---and besides, a crime against one is a crime against all.

So as I watch this guy working his way south down the block, away from my home, I tell my wife (who is also stunned by the 911 operator's refusal) that I have to get a better look and check this guy out. We get in the minivan and drive over to where he is. He's on a porch near the end of the block. He sees me. We make eye contact, and he gets wide-eyed as I pass by.

I notice that he is holding a relatively small box. Could be harmless, I know. Maybe it contains candy bars or pamphlets or Bibles. But perhaps it contains burglary tools.

So I decide to drive around. This time I'm going to get out and ask him what he's selling.

So I do. But I can't see him any more. Then my wife says, "Look. He's in that van." Sure enough, he had just gotten into a large, unmarked, dark-colored cargo van. Upon seeing my minivan again, he pulls away from the curb quickly. I follow, if only to see if I can get close enough to get a license plate number.

But I can't. He drives swiftly north, then east, then north, then east---zig-zagging his way through sidestreets before heading east on 51st Street. Was he fleeing, or was he just driving faster than I do? I don't know, nor will I ever.

I'm angry and troubled by the 911 operator's lack of action. And while it would be easy to dismiss her as an apathetic bureaucrat, I don't. Over the years I have known a few 911 operators---and the ones I have known are hard-working, dedicated public servants who do a difficult and important job.

So I reflect on the situation repeatedly, replaying my conversation with the 911 operator again and again in my head. Did I fail to describe the situation accurately? Is that why she declined to act? Or is it her failure? Or perhaps both of ours?

I want a clarification, so I contact the Chicago Office of Emergency Managment and Communications (
Gary W. Schenkel, Executive Director). I describe the situation and then ask this:

"Based upon the description I have provided, did the 911 operator take the correct action? If yes, will you please briefly explain the protocols she used to make her determination? If she was in error and failed to dispatch police to a possible crime in progress, what corrective actions will be taken?"

Here is the response I received:

"The Chicago 9-1-1 Communications Operators answered more than 5 million calls in 2011. The vast majority of the calls are successful. The 9-1-1 call taker, for the call in question, sent a police vehicle to the wrong address. The police vehicle was sent to the address provided north on Nordica instead of intended address area south on Nordica. Additionally, OEMC is looking into the specifics regarding the call taker's analysis of the call."

I'm disappointed and dissatisfied that the OEMC response did not answer my request that they explain what criteria 911 operators use when deciding to dispatch (or not dispatch) police to something that a caller reports as suspicious. And I find it confusing at best and hard to believe at worst that the 911 operator, after essentially tell me "No"---actually dispatched a vehicle, but to the Far Northwest Side rather than my block on the Southwest Side. Huh?

Anyway, folks, you be the judge.

As for my part, I plan to follow up with OEMC---not on this incident, but to interview an OEMC official to get a better understanding of how 911 calls are handled---and most important, how all of us as law-abiding citizens can work better to report suspicious activity quickly, accurately and in a way that generates the appropriate police response. I think that's important for us all, and I'll bet you agree.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

St. Laurence HS Student Earns "Cum Laude" Honor on National Latin Exam

A high school junior from the Southwest Side's Clearing neighborhood has earned "cum laude" status after scoring well on the 2012 National Latin Exam.

Thomas Barker and Br. Mahoney
 Thomas Barker, a parishioner at St. Rene Church and a student at St. Laurence High School, was given a hearty “Gratulationes huic discipulo egregio” (Congratulations to this outstanding student) by officials at the school.

“Tom certainly studied and worked hard for his achievement. I am very proud of him,” stated Brother Thomas Mahoney, CFC, the longtime Latin instructor at the school.

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Local Crime Roundup

Editor's note: The crime news reported by the Southwest Chicago Post---taken directly from Chicago Police Department incident reports---is not by any means an exhaustive catalogue of all crime reported in the Chicago Lawn (8th) District. For example, it typically does not include news of crimes committed in the eastern and southern sectors of the district---because the Southwest Chicago Post's coverage area is primarily the neighborhoods that border Midway Airport and secondarily because including the relatively large volume of crime news from elsewhere in the district would be a logistical challenge. We make this note to offer a little helpful perspective and remind everyone that while crime is definitely a concern in all parts of the district (as it always has been), crime remains relatively low overall in Sector 1. May all of us work together diligently to keep it that way.

* * *

A quick thinking cashier foiled an attempted robbery at 1:00 a.m. Thursday, April 19 at the BP gas station at 4010 South Pulaski.

The would-be robber walked in wearing a mask with mesh covering his eyes and mouth. Upon seeing him, the 45-year-old cashier ran into the cashier's booth and locked the door. The masked man then demanded to be let into the booth and thrust his hand into his pocket, implying he had a weapon.

The cashier refused to open the door and immediately called 911 on his cell phone. Upon seeing that, the masked man fled the gas station and ran north on Pulaski.

The cashier described the suspect as a 20-25-year-old black man, about 5'05 and 180 pounds.

* * *

Burglars forced open the side door of garage near 58th and Kildare and stole a number of power tools and other items. The crime was discovered at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 18 by the victim, a 59-year-old man.

* * *

A 21-year-old woman walking near her home at 49th and Kildare at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 17 was the victim of a strong arm robbery.

As she was walking down the sidewalk of her block, she noticed a man lurking in a gangway, who began to follow her and then lunged at her from behind. He pushed her, grabbed the gold chain from her neck and then fled on foot.

The offender is described as 17-20-year-old white Hispanic man, 5'08-5'10, 150-160 pounds, light brown complexion with a tattoo on his face, brown eyes and styled black hair. The victim told police she got a good look at the criminal's face and could identify him if she saw him again.

* * * 

A 72-year-old Vittum Park man walking on the 4900 block of Cicero at 4:50 a.m. Tuesday, April 17 was a victim of a strong arm robbery. Two men in a dark-colored car drove up. One jumped out, grabbed the man's wallet and jumped back in the car. The two sped away, west on 49th Street.

The victim described both offenders as black men, with the man who jumped out further described as 5'07, 20-25 years old.

* * *

Burglars stole a lawnmower and two bicycles after they forced open the side door of a garage near 51st and Keating. The crime was discovered at 6:00 a.m. on Monday, April 16 by the victim, a 44-year-old man.

* * *

Burglars stole four 20-inch chrome auto wheels (with tires), as well as 35-50 brand-new Hot Wheels toy cars still in their sealed boxes, after they forced open a service door of a garage near 53rd and Kildare.

The crime was discovered 5:20 a.m. Wednesday, April 18 by the victim, a 41-year-old man.

* * *

All Southwest Side residents are invited to a Chicago Police burglary prevention seminar set for 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Saturday, April 21 in the first-floor auditorium of Daley College, 7500 South Pulaski.

The seminar will feature ex-offenders sharing their secrets on how a burglar thinks: including how they choose which home or garage to burglarize, common mistakes that homeowners make, and more----and they will offer a number of practical steps people can take to minimize their risk of being a burglary victim.

The ex-offenders are participants in the Safer Foundation’s “Keepin’ It Real” program, started by Chicago Police Officer Maudessie Jointer about five years ago to connect former criminals with the community in constructive ways.

Admission and parking are free.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Burke Comments on City's Ward Re-Map, Welcomes New 14th Ward Residents

Burke (at lectern) listens to a community concern.
“I know your time is valuable, so I’ll begin my remarks by saying what King Henry VIII said to his fourth wife: I won’t keep you long,” quipped 14th Ward Alderman Edward M. Burke, milking new mirth from an old joke as his audience in Archer Heights broke into chuckles.

Burke spoke as an invited guest at a meeting of the Archer Heights Civic Association (AHCA), held last week at the UNO Veterans Memorial Campus, 47th and Kildare. About 150 people were in attendance.

His principal purpose at the meeting was to introduce himself to local men and women whose homes and/or businesses have been re-mapped into the 14th Ward.

He offered a historical overview of his 43 years as alderman, noting that he succeeded his father, Joseph P. Burke, as alderman; and that since 1969 he has served alongside eight mayors and 254 City Council colleagues.

"Politics is the art of the possible,” Burke noted as he used a line from 19th century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and explained the multi-sided political negotiations that led to the drawing of the new city ward boundaries.

“Compromises were made by everyone. It was important to avoid a costly referendum,” he added, saying that Chicago’s last round of re-map related litigation cost taxpayers about $13 million.

Noting that the Archer Heights Civic Association had requested that all of Archer Heights be remapped into the 14th Ward, Burke stated that he attempted to do that; and that under the new map, about 80 percent of Archer Heights is within 14th Ward boundaries.

Burke noted that in the switch from the old map to the new, the 14th Ward will shed a number of its northeastern precincts and add precincts to the west---which right now are on the northwest edge of the 23rd Ward, near 51st Street.

An interactive view of the new ward map can be found here.

Hinting at the bare-knuckled racial and ethnic politics that are central to every ward remap in Chicago, Burke would only note that “There are about 52,000 people in each ward; and the shape of the new ward reflects certain realities of population.”

To those people who will be newly mapped into the 14th Ward, Burke said, “I welcome you and pledge to do my very best to deliver the best city services possible. You can expect nothing short of diligence on our part to deliver the services you deserve.”

Burke acknowledged that with any re-map, there will be individuals and organizations dissatisfied and even angry with the result. Several people in the audience clearly were. One Vittum Park homeowner said his community was “raped” by the re-map process and expressed anger that Vittum Park was remapped into the 22nd Ward. “We have nowhere to go, because I can tell you this: I’m not going to go to 25th and St. Louis for a meeting,” the man said, alluding to the headquarters of 22nd Ward Alderman Ricardo Munoz.

Empathizing with the anger, Burke took the unusual step of implying that he will serve an area outside his ward’s boundaries. “You don’t have to go to 25th and St. Louis. You come and see me,” Burke told the man. In response to a related follow-up question, Burke agreed to attend the next meeting of the Vittum Park Civic League.

At the conclusion of his remarks, Burke fielded a number of questions from the audience. Most concerned block-level issues like garbage carts, street lights, pot holes, location of stoplights, cul de sacs, designation of certain streets as one-way or two-way, and so forth. Mostly, Burke pledged to examine the individual concerns and referred audience members to aldermanic staff seated in the back of the room.

There were also concerns voiced about allegedly long response times from police, scrap dealers stealing from local yards, businesses that tape unsolicited advertising leaflets to garage doors and frames, understaffing at and the poor physical condition of the Archer Heights Branch Library, and an idea to ensure that the land that once held the LeClaire Courts public housing units will remain open, green and in public hands.

In response to a question about installing police cameras near schools to detect and discourage speeding violations, Burke (a longtime supporter of the idea) said he thinks the discussion about cameras should include an exploration of other productive uses of the cameras, such as possibly helping thwart drug dealing around schools, catching pedophiles and other sex offenders who are supposed to stay away from schools, assisting in “Amber Alert” situations where a child has been abducted, and even capturing “people who don’t have auto liability insurance.”

In response to an audience member who predicted and complained about a possible surge in speeding tickets caused by the cameras, Burke replied, “If you don’t want a ticket, obey the traffic laws and don’t speed. Whether it’s a camera or a police officer in a car who catches you, the fact is you were still speeding.”

Also at the meeting, AHCA officials made several pitches for membership enrollment, which is $10 per year. Simple registration forms can be found in the ACHA’s monthly newsletter, a six-page publication packed with updates on the group’s effort to fight crime and blight and promote a safer and more prosperous community.

To learn more about the AHCA, call 773-843-2232 or attend the next meeting, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 9 at the UNO Veterans Memorial Campus, 47th & Kildare. Guest speaker will be Mary Ellen Guest, Executive Director of the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association, who will discuss various grants and low-cost loans available to people who want to preserve their historic bungalows.

Archer Heights is home to a number of historic bungalows in the east end of the community (starting on Kildare Avenue and going east) that may qualify for such assistance. People who live outside Archer Heights and own historic bungalows are welcome to attend the meeting as guests, AHCA officials said this week.

AHCA meetings are always the second Wednesday of the month, with the exception of July and August, and always start at 7:30 p.m. All Archer Heights residents are encouraged to attend.

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