Saturday, May 26, 2012

Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch Doing Everything Right, Crime Stoppers Say

Cook County Crime Stoppers Chairman George McDade.
 As one of Chicago's most active and effective crime fighting organizations, the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch (GRNW) is growing accustomed to hearing praise. And they received it again this month.

"This group is doing everything right---just the way a neighborhood watch ought to be run," said
Cook County Crime Stoppers Chairman George McDade. "If we could bundle what you have and send it to every other neighborhood in the city and county, we would."

McDade's comments were made at the GRNW's May meeting, held in the lobby of Bridgeview Bank, 6366 South Archer. About 40 people, mostly GRNW members, were in attendance.

“The mere fact that this meeting is being held at a local bank shows the good work your organization has done to successfully reach out to your local business community and enlist them as allies in preventing crime and keeping the neighborhood safe," McDade added.

McDade, along with Crime Stoppers Vice Chairman Paul Rutherford, attended the meeting as invited guests. They gave GRNW members an overview of their organization, which attempts to unite law enforcement agencies, businesses, the news media, community groups and individuals to fight felony-level crime.

It encourages people to anonymously report tips on crime and thereby be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000. People can call 1-800-535-STOP to report their tips. Callers never have to give their name, just their information. Crime Stoppers relays tips to the proper law enforcement agency for action.

McDade and Rutherford noted that Crime Stoppers' confidentiality is especially useful for people who, for any number of reasons, may be afraid to report crime tips to police or other law enforcement agencies. They noted that their program enjoys success in high-crime areas of the city and suburban Cook County.

Rutherford also observed that anonymity in reporting crime is especially important for teenagers who may be fearful of retribution by gang members in and around school. He mentioned Crime Stoppers' initiatives to reach out to young people and encourage them to report what they know. One of those is the Chicago Police Department's TXT2TIP program that encourages people to send anonymous tips via mobile phone text messaging.

Since its establishment in 1986, Crime Stoppers has helped federal, state and local law enforcement agencies recover over $23 million in property and illegal narcotics, the group reports. Crime Stoppers has programs to combat illegal gun possession and use, domestic violence, fraud, illegal drug and gang activity, auto theft, campus violence and felony-level animal abuse, among others.

Other matters discussed at the GRNW meeting included:

► GRNW President Al Cacciottolo added his thanks to Bridgeview Bank Area Branch Manager Andrew M. Trippi and his staff for being gracious and accommodating hosts. "
Bridgeview Bank has always been a good neighbor and friend of this group. They set an example that all businesses should follow." Additionally, he thanked the rank and file of the GRNW, many of whom were at the meeting. "You know, those of us on the (GRNW) board are always front and center. I just want to say that this organization is only as good as its members; and there are a number of people here tonight---and you know who you are---who make us as effective as we are. Thank you for all you do."

► In an update of a concern mentioned at the April meeting, Cacciottolo mentioned that police and others are keeping a close watch on a residence near 56th and Narragansett. In April, a number of people observed young men on the front porch of the home, apparently attempting to intimidate students at the west entrance to Kennedy High School (almost directly across the street). The men, dressed in gang banger-style dark jeans and plain white t-shirts, were seen flashing gang signs and giving the "war face" glares that are a small but common part of gang intimidation. "Well, if you've noticed---since last month, things have gotten real quiet at that house," Cacciottolo said. "They know they are being watched, very closely. So let's all stay on top of this and make sure it stays that way."

Normandy Park Supervisor Kathy Murray gave a brief update on programs at the park and encouraged everyone to register as early as possible for summer programs. She also mentioned graffiti and vandalism at Stars and Stripes Park, which she described as an "unmanned" park that she is responsible for. She encouraged everyone with questions or concerns about either park to call her directly at 773-229-1421.

► An update on GRNW court advocacy efforts was provided by Arlene White, who also expressed frustration with judges who are lenient on crime and who are resistant to---and even hostile to efforts by court advocates to support victims and make their presence known in court. The GRNW's involvement in court advocacy is part of a larger effort by the Chicago Police Department Eighth District’s
court advocacy effort, in which local volunteers attend select criminal court proceedings to display unity, support local crime victims and impress upon judges and everyone the community’s ongoing demand for justice. In recent years, local court advocates have played a role in the convictions of over 200 criminals on graffiti-related charges and more than $32,000 in fines. There are currently about 40 men and women who serve as Eighth District court advocates.

► Ron Koperniak provided an update on the GRNW's Adopt-A-Block program, stating that 17 blocks in Garfield Ridge are now linked to the GRNW with block leaders who share important crime prevention information on a neighbor-to-neighbor basis and who promote a sense of unity and camaraderie on the blocks.

► An update was provided on GRNW efforts to help a local homeowner of limited means remove raccoons from an attic near 56th and McVicker, after Chicago Animal Care and Control refused to remove them or provide a trap. GRNW volunteers are purchasing Shake-Away repellent (concentrated coyote urine pellets) and using them to dislodge the raccoons. They are also patching the entry hole in the roof. Also discussed was a GRNW effort to assist a local homeowner of limited means near 58th and Neva. The GRNW has secured donated lumber and is seeking volunteer carpenters to mend a 15-foot section of dilapidated fence in the back yard. They are having difficulty contacting the woman to gain her consent to perform the free work.

► Cacciottolo announced that the GRNW is working with State Senator Martin A. Sandoval to strengthen state laws relating to graffiti and vandalism. "We need tougher laws," Cacciottolo said. "The trouble with graffiti is, these guys get slapped on the hand---and that's a bunch of crap."

► All were reminded about the GRNW's community awareness day and encouraged to bring neighbors and friends. Full details at:

The next GRNW meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 11 at Normandy Park, 6660 West 52nd Street. All Garfield Ridge residents are invited to attend.

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