Friday, July 20, 2012

Zalewski Talks About Proposed Ordinance to "Get Tough" on Taggers, Gang Graffiti

Alderman Michael R. Zalewski
While the fate of his proposed "get tough on graffiti" ordinance is uncertain, 23rd Ward Alderman Michael R. Zalewski said earlier this week that he is counting on Southwest Siders to help make the case for stronger punishments for those who deface property,

Zalewski's remarks were made at the July meeting of the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch (GRNW) organization, held at Valley Forge Park. About three dozen people were in attendance.

Video of Zalewski's comments is posted on the Southwest Chicago Post channel on YouTube.

Zalewski's proposed ordinance would increase fines attached to graffiti-related crimes, and it would move such cases away from the Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings and to the Cook County Circuit Court system---which Zalewski said would mean that some found guilty of graffiti offenses would serve jail time in the "Hotel California" (County Jail at 26th and California), as opposed to merely paying fines.

Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch officers
The Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings was created in 1996 to speed up the prosecution of certain violations of city ordinances, including those related to graffiti. Prior to that, many cases went unresolved for months or more because of a severe backlog of cases in court. Zalewski did not speculate on whether moving graffiti cases back to court would slow down prosecution. 

The alderman said that the City Council will hold hearings on the proposed ordinance in August or early September. He implied that passage of the measure is not certain and acknowledged that a number of other alderman may not agree with his idea to stiffen punishments.

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Also at the GRNW meeting,

► Garfield Ridge resident Elizabeth Hayes, a Democratic nominee for Circuit Court judge, gave a brief presentation explaining how the court system handles criminal felony cases.

► All GRNW members and Southwest Siders are encouraged to make plans to attend a two-part crime prevention seminar set for 7:00 p.m. Monday, August 20 at the Kennedy High School auditorium. One part will feature ex-burglars offering tips on burglary prevention; the other will focus on drug and alcohol abuse prevention for teenagers. High school students in need of "community service" hours for school may receive up to four hours' credit for attending the event.

► Ron Koperniak provided an update on the GRNW's Adopt-A-Block program, stating that 20 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 near 58th and Neva. The GRNW has secured donated lumber and volunteer carpenters to mend a 15-foot section of dilapidated fence in the back yard. After months of difficulty contacting the woman to gain her consent to perform the free work, GRNW President Al Cacciottolo said the group has made contact with the homeowner, "a very nice woman, a sweet old lady." The work is expected to be done soon.

► An audience member who lives near 55th and Austin said her home had recently been burglarized. She expressed frustration that the criminals responsible were caught on video but not prosecuted because their faces were not visible. She said the thugs are local young men who hang around Wentworth Park. Others in the audience showed signs of recognition; Cacciottolo asked a GRNW board member to confer with the woman after the meeting and work on a solution. 

► Cacciottolo noted that several thefts of potted plants and yard ornaments have occurred recently in the neighborhood, and he expressed puzzlement. "Why anyone would steal potted plants, I don't know. That's crazy. Let's hope they (the plants) die soon," he said, to audience chuckles.

► The crime prevention event at Kennedy High School will serve as the GRNW's August meeting. After that, the next GRNW meeting is scheduled for 7:30p.m. Monday, September 17 at a location to be announced. For more details, visit

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