Thursday, August 30, 2012

St. Sym's Family Helps Neighbors in Need; "This is How Clear-Ridge Rolls"

Here's yet another story illustrating why the Southwest Side is one of the best places in all of Chicago.
~ ~ ~

A house in Clearing caught fire and burned last week.

The Alonso family lost a lot: valuables as well as everyday things like clothes, household items, toys, you name it.

They are temporarily living in a local hotel and looking for an apartment to rent.

Word spread quickly about the fire and the family's need. But unlike other neighborhoods, where people might shake their heads, say a few words of pity and then go back to their own lives, the good people of Clearing (and some from Garfield Ridge) are doing what good neighbors do: take action and help.

Classmates at St. Symphorosa took up a schoolwide collection that yielded cash, clothes, household items, toys and more.

The St. Sym's Parent Association spread the word via Facebook, email, phone, texting and personal contact---and in the early evening of Wednesday, August 29, they held a drop-off in the parking at 62nd and Austin, right next to the church.

People from all across the neighborhood drove by (a few walked) and dropped off items of all kind---including Chicago Police uniforms to help replace what Mr. Alonso lost in the fire---as well as cash.
As you might imagine, the family is extremely grateful for the assistance of their neighbors and friends. Mrs. Alonso posted this on the Internet:

"Thank you to everyone who came out and donated, called or texted us. We are very overwhelmed and are at a loss for words and filled with many emotions. We are so proud to be a part of this wonderful community and proud to be a part of the St. Symphorosa parish. We appreciate all the generosity that was given today and all this time and effort that was given to us. We know that these are hard times for many people, but there was many generous donations and we the Alonso family thank you from the bottom of our hearts. God bless you all!"

If you have not yet helped but want to assist, stop by any Chicago Patrolmen's Federal Credit Union location:

...and tell them you want to make a monetary donation to the "Alonso Fire Fund" (Account number 52176).

A lot of people involved in the drive to help neighbors in need spoke well of the good-hearted motivations that spurred so many to assist. We like the matter-of-fact way it was summed up by Melana Raehl, president of the Parent Association at St. Sym's:

"This is a community coming together. This is how Clear-Ridge rolls."

Well put...

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Honor Flight Chicago Seeks Volunteers to Give VIP Treatment to WWII Veterans

Thank you to the several Southwest Chicago Post readers who have reminded us to encourage everyone to consider volunteering with the Honor Flight Chicago organization, which gives Chicago-area military veterans (primarily World War II) free round-trip air transportation (as well as VIP treatment) to Washington, D.C. to tour the National World War II Memorial.

Honor Flight Chicago, founded in 2008, is part of a nationwide Honor Flight Network---which, since 2005, has flown tens of thousands of military veterans to and from our nation's capital.

Honor Flight Chicago volunteers we have spoken with say their work is easy, emotion-packed and highly rewarding.

Photo: Honor Flight Chicago website
The flights, as well as the war-hero receptions that volunteers give to the vets, are designed to honor and thank those who answered the call and served their country. The flights have been well covered by the Chicago-area news media.

Interested? There are many ways to volunteer---large and small. Check out the Honor Flight Chicago website for more details.

The next Honor Flight at Midway Airport is set for Wednesday, September 12. There are also two flights in October.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

GRNW "Good Neighbor" Program Building A Better, Safer Garfield Ridge for Everyone

By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

As you may recall from the story we posted back in May, the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch (GRNW) organization has expanded beyond its original crime prevention work to include assisting neighbors in need.

Monday, May 7, 2012
In the video that accompanied the story, GRNW members were attempting to contact a local homeowner whose severely dilapidated back fence was in need of demolition and rebuilding. Several neighbors had complained to the alderman's office about the situation; but rather than see the elderly homeowner slapped with citations and fines, GRNW members stepped in with a positive approach---an offer to assist her with donated materials and labor.

And then in our update on the story, posted in July...

Sunday, July 22, 2012
...we noted that the GRNW succeeded in reaching the homeowner and received her consent (and immense gratitude) to start the work---which they did. And on a Sunday evening, a half dozen unpaid volunteers---six of the very best people you'll find in Garfield Ridge or anywhere in Chicago---showed up to remove the fence and other rotted materials attached to the carport, trim overgrown weeds and ready the debris for hauling away by Streets and San.

Here's the latest. A crew of volunteer tradesmen and others showed up at about 9:00 a.m. today (Saturday, August 25)---and despite being pounded by the sun in near-record heat---spent several hours rebuilding the fence and carport.

Saturday, August 25, 2012
As you might imagine, the elderly woman who owns the home---who is receiving everything free of charge---was again overflowing in her praise, sounding like a human thesaurus in her description of the GRNW and the volunteers: awesome, amazing, magnificent were just a few of the adjectives she used repeatedly to express her gratitude.

A few things remain to be done---like adding a gate and installing tar paper and shingles on the roof of the carport---and they will be done in the days ahead.

All labor involved in this effort has been donated; and the materials were paid for through the generosity of Richards Building Supply Company---a successful, multi-state business headquartered at 7000 West 63rd Street. A family-owned company operating since 1978, Richards has earned and maintained a strong reputation as a good neighbor and responsible corporate citizen.

This entire effort is a part of the GRNW's "Good Neighbor Program"---an initiative to fight crime indirectly by helping neighbors in need and promoting a sense of caring, cohesiveness and common good.

We at the Southwest Chicago Post salute the GRNW for its smart, effective and compassionate leadership. We also tip our cap to everyone who has volunteered in this effort, as well as the good people at Richards Building Supply Company. Together, all of you are helping make Garfield Ridge an even better place than it is already---one of the very best neighborhoods in Chicago.

If you live in Garfield Ridge, please consider joining the GRNW and doing your part to make the neighborhood a safer and better place for all. Contact them their via their website: and attend their next public meeting, set for 7:30 p.m. Monday, September 17 at Normandy Park.

If you live elsewhere on the Southwest Side, join your local civic or crime prevention group and help start a similar "good neighbor" initiative. Let's make all our neighborhoods places where we not only watch out for each other, but reach out to help each other.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Garage Sale in Garfield Ridge to Help Gamma Phi Omega Fight Diabetes

Want to shop a great local garage sale and help fight diabetes?

Make sure you stop by the garage at 5538 South Mayfield from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday, August 25.

The sale will include women’s, men’s and children’s clothing, household items, an elliptical machine, a boy's bike and scooter, an IKEA office desk w/glass top, floral glass vases, and more.

The event is hosted by Garfield Ridge resident Laura Soria, who reports that all proceeds will be donated to the American Diabetes Association.

The sale is part of a series of fundraisers conducted by the Gamma Phi Omega International Sorority, Inc. for the ADA, their chosen charity. Last year, they raised about $3,000; thus far in 2012, they have raised well over $8,500.

If you can't make the garage sale, you can still make a donation to help Gamma Phi Omega help the ADA. Just visit

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Tip to Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch Leads to Arrest in Walgreens Robbery

A tip to a Garfield Ridge crime-fighting telephone hotline has led police to arrest a 45-year-old Bridgeview man in connection with an armed robbery attempt made on Friday, August 10 at the Walgreens at 7150 West Archer.

Daniel McCloud
Daniel McCloud of 79th and Oketo is scheduled to appear in Cook County Circuit Court First Municipal District, 151 West 51st Street, later this month.

Details about the attempted robbery---in which McCloud allegedly demanded Xanax and Narco prescription drugs and threatened pharmacists with a kitchen knife---were first reported locally in an August 13 crime news update by the Southwest Chicago Post.

According to police, McCloud is also accused of attempting to rob the Walgreens at 8715 South Harlem, Bridgeview, several days before the robbery at Archer and Harlem. He is scheduled to answer that charge next month in Cook County Circuit Court Fifth Municipal District, 10220 South 76th Avenue, Bridgeview.

According to Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch President Al Cacciottolo, police were led to McCloud by a person who called the GRNW's crime tip hotline (1-855-811-TIPS). GRNW officials put the tipster in touch with Chicago Police Department Area Central detectives; and in the end, Cacciottolo said, McCloud agreed to turn himself in---first to Bridgeview Police for the attempted robbery at the Walgreens at 87th and Harlem; and then to Chicago Police on Wednesday, August 22 for the attempted robbery at the Walgreens at Archer and Harlem.

"This is one of the many things we as a group do well," Cacciottolo said. "We are relentless in our push to get everyone to be a 'nosy neighbor' and say something when you see something; and just as important, while we encourage people to work directly with police, we set up our tipline as a mechanism to make it even easier for people to report crime in cases where they may feel more comfortable talking with us."
"Each and every one of our GRNW members shares in this success story," Cacciottolo added. "Working as partners with the Chicago Police Department, we have successfully encouraged an entire neighborhood to stand up and stand together against crime."
"Finally, I thank the person who came forward with the information that resulted in this arrest, and I look forward to the GRNW court advocates reporting on the case as it moves through criminal court."

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sweet on Tootsie Roll

By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

As a Southwest Sider and a business owner, I have a lot of respect and admiration for Melvin and Ellen Gordon.

For the last 50 years or so, the Gordons have owned and operated Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc., headquartered right here on the Southwest Side at 7401 South Cicero.

They have employed thousands of local men and women over the years; and by all accounts I've heard, been a good neighbor and a good corporate citizen.

And of course, their products (from the original wrapped penny candy of 100 years ago to their many taste-tempting combinations of the 21st century) have brought smiles to the faces of millions, if not billions of boys and girls (not to mention moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas) over the years.

The question they first posed in fun in 1970:

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?

...has gently perplexed people around the world (including scientists).

The Gordons, like owners of many businesses large and small, choose to keep a relatively low personal profile---generally avoiding interviews with the press (especially the business press) and keeping Tootsie Rolls and all their other candy products in the spotlight, where they belong.

Fasano's fun, larger-than-life style.
That's not the only way for corporate leaders to conduct their affairs, of course. Some are high profile, make their names synonymous with their products, and enjoy great success in doing so. For example, Joseph "Joe Pies" Fasano did exactly that for 40 years with his product---arguably the best pies anywhere---and today his son, Peter Fasano, is building (and baking!) the same success with a high-profile, Bill Veeck-like style of super-size promotion.

I understand and respect both approaches. Trouble is, a few in the press do not respect the Gordons' style. I thought about that this week when I saw yet another grouchy, catty, sour-grapes story by a business writer from the Wall Street Journal---who apparently was so bitter about not getting an interview with the Gordons that he took a hissy-fit photo of the outside of the Tootsie Roll property, complete with a sign that says "STOP" and a high fence with barbed wire atop. Really.

I found it unworthy of the WSJ. Too bad its editors did not.

Granted, the Gordons certainly don't need a small business owner and neighborhood news publisher like me to defend them. I'm sure that over the years, they have developed skins as resilient as---well, as a Tootsie Roll, come to think of it.

And at their age, they have proven that they themselves have a long shelf life, just like their products. I think that's great. May all married couples enjoy such longevity and success.

So today I hope you will join me in raising a glass---or better, your favorite flavor of Tootsie Pop---to Melvin and Ellen Gordon. May you, your family, your employees and Tootsie Roll Industries continue to prosper right here on the Southwest Side for years to come.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Crime News Update

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. May all of us also remember that a person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

* * *

A woman cradled an infant while she helped rob a 44-year-old man Sunday morning in the alley behind the Aldi discount grocery store at 5775 South Archer.

The victim, a Woodstock man, told police he was there at 11:15 a.m. to shop for groceries for his elderly father in the Leclaire Courts area.

The man told police that when he was told that Aldi does not have a bathroom for customer use, he walked to the alley and began urinating against a wall. While doing so, he was approached by a woman holding an infant. The woman claimed her car had broken down and she needed money to get home.

The victim, still urinating, told her he had no money to spare. At that point, the woman's male accomplice appeared, displayed a pistol and said "Don't move. What you got?" They then went through his pockets, taking his wallet (which contained his ID, debit card and $200 cash).

The pair of thugs then fled, with the baby, in a blue Dodge or Chevy van with tinted windows and a deep scratch along the passenger side. The victim got a partial Illinois license plate number of L14.

The victim described the woman as a white Hispanic, 30-36 years old, 5'4 to 5'6 and 130-155 pounds, olive complexion, long red/auburn hair, wearing a pink t-shirt and blue jeans.

The gunman was described as a white Hispanic, 24-28 years old, 5'9 to 5'11 and 160-185 pounds, brown eyes, short brown hair, olive complexion, wearing black pants and a black hooded sweatshirt.

* * *

A 46-year-old Vittum Park man was arrested Sunday and charged with burglarizing a garage near 48th and Kilpatrick.

John Sweeney of 50th and Leamington is scheduled to appear in Cook County Circuit Court First Municipal District Branch 48, 151 West 51st Street, on Monday, August 27.

John Sweeney
At about 10:35 a.m., a 56-year-old neighbor of the victim (a 38-year-old man) said he heard a prying sound compatible with someone trying to break in the service door of a garage. He went to investigate and claimed to see Sweeney leaving with a lawn mower.

He alerted an off-duty police officer who lives nearby. The officer said she asked Sweeney if he had stolen the lawn mower; and his only response to her was "F~ck off."

When police arrived, the off-duty officer directed them to a house near 49th and Knox where she said Sweeney hangs out. He was found there, taken into custody and brought back to the scene of the burglary, where he was positively identified by the witness.

Further, the off-duty police officer told police that Sweeney occasionally did odd jobs at a home near 50th and Kilpatrick.

When police arrived at that home, they saw fresh tracks from lawn mower wheels in the long grass. They alerted a 76-year-old woman living at the home, who then opened a door under her deck to reveal a lawn mower. Police brought the lawn mower back to the burglarized garage, where the owner identified it as his.

* * *

A 21-year-old gangbanger from suburban Midlothian was beaten and robbed of his cell phone as he walked on the side walk in front of 6458 South Pulaski at 4:08 p.m. Saturday, August 18.

An admitted member of a North Side gang, the victim was wearing common gang colors (black and red) and claimed he was attacked by a rival gang member because he had recently changed his allegiance to his new gang.

Beyond that, the victim refused to cooperate with police questioning.

* * *

A 39-year-old West Lawn woman had her purse snatched as she walked westbound on the sidewalk in front of 4118 West 63rd Street at 6:10 p.m. Sunday, August 19.

A thug on a black or dark blue mountain bike rode up behind her and snatched it away, fleeing north on Kedvale. The purse contained a cell phone and $60 cash, the victim said.

The criminal was described as a white Hispanic boy, 16-18 years old, 5'6 to 6'0 and 160-180 pounds, dark complexion, wearing a white t-shirt.

* * *

A 20-year-old Archer Heights man accidentally shot himself in the upper left thigh when he adjusted his belt and forgot he had a loaded pistol stashed in his waistband.

The man was walking in the alley behind 4923 South Tripp at 1:10 a.m. Monday, August 20 when the mishap occurred. Apparently embarrassed, the man told police that he had planned to stash the gun at the scene, run home (48th and Keeler) and tell his mother he had been shot by a rival gangbanger.

He claimed he quit gangbanging about a year ago, but recently bought a gun on the street for $250 after someone fired at him several days earlier.

* * *

A 19-year-old West Lawn man claimed that a carload of gangbangers chased his car, threatened him with a gun, shouted gang slogans and threw empty bottles and rocks at him at about 6:05 p.m. Sunday, August 19---in a chase that included incidents at 63rd and Cicero, 63rd and Kilpatrick and 67th and Kildare.

The victim insisted to police that he is not a gang member.

* * *

Want to work directly with Chicago Police to prevent crime in your neighborhood? If you live in Beat 811 (see map above), come to Good Shepherd Church, 5556 South Merrimac, at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, August 21. Learn how you can work with neighbors and police to make the community safer and better for all.
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Monday, August 20, 2012

CFD, CPD, Rain Thwart Archer Gas Spill

Archer Avenue (just east of Central Avenue) was blocked off in the late morning/early afternoon today due to a crash and gasoline spill involving a large truck.

Chicago Fire Department officials said the spill triggered a  Level I Hazmat response. At least six CFD units responded, as well as a comparable number of police vehicles.

Police secured the area to keep motorists and pedestrians away, CFD took quick action to prevent the spill from spreading; and then a sudden cloud burst washed away most everything.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Trial Date Set for Scottsdale Gangbanger Charged With Beating Woman on Pulaski

A trial date has been set for a 22-year-old Scottsdale gangbanger charged with misdemeanor battery and resisting arrest in connection with the July 31 beating of a woman on a sidewalk near 84th and Pulaski. (Incident details below.)

Frank Kiriakakis Jr.
Frank Kiriakakis Jr. is scheduled to stand trial in Cook County Circuit Court First Municipal District Branch 34, 151 West 51st Street, on Monday, October 15---five days after his 23rd birthday.

The victim of the beating, still reportedly recovering from her injuries, was in court on Friday, accompanied by two men and supported by nine men and women volunteers from the Chicago Police Department Eighth District Court Advocacy Program.

When Kiriakakis' case was called, the advocates stood up with the victim. All were in the front row, directly in front of Judge Tommy Brewer.

After the trial date was set, Kirkiakakis, wearing olive green prisoner garb, was led back to the lock-up. As he walked past the front row, he looked in the general direction of the victim, smirked and said something unintelligible. It was not clear whether he was attempting to say something to the victim or communicate with his grandmother, seated in the second row. He was immediately told to keep his mouth shut by the Cook County Sheriff's officers leading him away.

Nicholas Kiriakakis
In an unrelated court action on Friday, Kiriakakis and his brother, 20-year-old Nicholas Kiriakakis, were acquitted of reckless conduct charges in connection with an incident near 58th and Fairfield, in which the brothers were allegedly taunting passing motorists by flashing gang signs and shouting a gang slogan. Judge Brewer chided the prosecution for what he said was a weak case that did not meet the definition of reckless conduct.
~ ~ ~
Original story posted on August 6:
An off-duty Chicago Fire Department captain chased, tackled and subdued a 22-year-old admitted gangbanger who allegedly had just attacked a woman on a sidewalk near 84th and Pulaski at 6:18 p.m. Tuesday, July 31.

The victim, a 27-year-old Palos Hills woman, had just finished work for the day at a nearby chiropractor's office and was walking on the sidewalk. She told police she saw the alleged offender, Scottsdale resident Frank Kiriakakis Jr., walking down the street and yelling into a cell phone.

Kiriakakis reportedly punched the victim in the head, grabbed her neck with both hands and body-slammed her to the concrete. The victim later told police she does not know Kiriakakis and had no idea why he attacked her.

As the victim lay injured, Kiriakakis fled. The off-duty captain, a 52-year-old man, chased him down, tackled him and held him as others on the street called 911 and the Chicago Fire Department station at 8026 South Kedzie.

CFD staff responded to assist their comrade and care for the victim. Police arrived and arrested Kiriakakis. They said that he resisted arrest before being brought under control. Later, at the Eighth District Station, Kiriakakis claimed he was having difficulty breathing. He was transported to Holy Cross Hospital.

The victim was transported by CFD ambulance to Christ Hospital, where she was treated for severe head, neck and back pain.

Kiriakakis was charged with one misdemeanor count of battery and one misdemeanor count of resisting/obstructing a police officer.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

There's Plenty of Crime in the Suburbs

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

The Southwest Chicago Post reports on local crime news so that we Southwest Siders can better arm ourselves with current, relevant information---which all of us can use to better protect ourselves, our property and each other; as well as demand more and better police resources from the politicians we elect to serve us.

One thing we never want to do is unintentionally create unfounded fear among law-abiding men and women on the Southwest Side---some of whom sadly live under the flawed assumption that the burglaries, robberies, assaults and batteries seen on the Southwest Side are virtually non-existent in the burbs.

So let's be clear. There's plenty of crime---including gang crime---in the suburbs.

We Southwest Siders typically don't hear about it because:

** ...the downtown news media have a severely disproportionate focus on city crime. It's sexy. It sells newspapers and helps build big and lucrative audiences for radio and TV newscasts. And when they hammer Chicago's mayor (whoever he or she may be at the time) over crime, it's that much more entertaining, in their view.

** ...the downtown news media generally ignore most suburban crime; partly because it's viewed as too local for their broad audience, and partly because reporters and editors know they'll never win awards and advance their careers by reporting on crime in Westmont or Burbank or Tinley Park or Orland Hills or Mokena.

** ...even if they wanted to report suburban crime, they would be blocked by many (if not most) suburban police departments that hide major crimes from the press (and public) and instead offer reporters (and the public) a meager diet of traffic stops, shoplifting arrests, bicycle thefts and marijuana busts.

** ...a number of smaller, suburban newspapers---being controlled or at least compromised by local politicians---downplay crime and sometimes ignore it entirely.

** ...what little suburban crime that does make the news is not seen by most Southwest Siders, who typically do not read suburban papers.

Those reasons also explain why many suburbanites themselves are unaware of crime---including gang crime---that occurs right in their own backyard. (That plus a little willful ignorance on their part.) So the next time your suburban friends and relatives smugly tell you how wonderful it is where they live (and how you ought to move there), smile and take it with a grain of salt. 

So just this once, here's a tip-of-the-iceberg sampling of suburban crime, gleaned from a respectable news

Tinley Park

** Sometime between 7 p.m. Aug. 8 and 8 a.m. Aug. 9, someone stole a 2003 Cadillac from a driveway in the 18000 block of 66th Court.

** A man living in the 7400 block of West 165th Street reported various damage that has been occurring on his property. He said the majority of the incidents took place between the morning of Aug. 7 and the afternoon of Aug. 8. First, someone removed the circuit breaker for his air conditioning unit, he said. He then discovered that someone had let the air out of the tires on his wife's vehicle. He also said the cable wire to his television had been cut. Neighbors hadn't noticed anything suspicious. The case remained under investigation Aug. 13.

Burr Ridge

** Two people who were charged with promoting prostitution after a bizarre incident at a Burr Ridge hotel in May have reached plea agreements with the DuPage County State's Attorney that include jail time for both offenders, though one is already out.Carlo P. Woolfolk Jr. whose last known address was 1050 N. Knollwood Drive in Schaumburg, agreed to a plea deal on Aug. 14 that included a two-year prison sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections in exchange for the state's attorney dropping one of the two counts of promoting prostitution, state's attorney spokesman Paul Darrah said.

Downers Grove

** Michael W. Reilly, 37, of the 6400 block of Sandalwood Court in Darien, was arrested around 10:26 p.m. at the Main Street Shell Station, Downers Grove police said.

Reilly approached a man at the Shell station and punched him in the eye, knocking him down, police said. Reilly then repeatedly punched and kicked the man while he was on the ground in the fetal position, police said. The man, who told police he doesn’t know Reilly, said he didn’t do anything to instigate the attack, the report said.

The man had a bump and a half-inch abrasion behind his ear, police said. One of his eyes was bloodshot. Reilly had a one-inch abrasion on his left elbow and a two-by-three-inch abrasion on his back, police said.

Evergreen Park

** Shantae White, 26, of Chicago, was charged with forgery and theft. White was employed as a caregiver for a resident of Evergreen Park. She stole checks from the woman and attempted to cash one of the checks for $300 at a local bank but was stopped because the signature on the check did not match with the bank's records, police said.

La Grange

** A resident of the 900 block of Eighth Avenue told police at about 4:30 a.m. that while leaving for work he noticed several vehicles with their back windows smashed. Police also received a similar call on the 800 block of Seventh Avenue that windows at the La Grange Bible Church were smashed on the north side and east side of the building around 4:43 a.m.

** Police were called to assist the Western Springs Police Department after a window was smashed with a bat on the 4000 block of Franklin Avenue at 5:17 a.m.

Oak Lawn

** A carnival worker and his girlfriend have been accused of sending sexually explicit photos and text messages to a 16-year-old high school student.

James West, 25, of Evergreen Park, and his girlfriend, Lauren Papiez, 20, of Oak Lawn were charged with one count each of indecent solicitation of a child, a Class 2 felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.

West was taken into custody at the Oak Lawn Community High School's fall carnival, where he was operating rides for Spectacular Midway Amusement.

Police said the girl believes West got her phone number off of Facebook. She also told police her birth date is on her Facebook page and that West knows she is 16.

A teacher at the school discovered the explicit text messages on the student’s phone after the teacher confiscated it when the girl violated the school’s cell phone policy, reports said.

Orland Park

** An Orland Park man is facing three felony charges against him, after he was accused of stealing an 88-year old woman’s purse and car and kicking her in the process.

Peter Sousan, 24, is charged with aggravated vehicular hijacking (Class X felony), aggravated battery (Class 2 felony) and robbery (Class 1 felony).

On July 30, an 88-year-old woman parked her car at Walgreen’s at 80th Avenue and 159th Street, and walked to the store entrance when a white man started running toward her around 2:20 p.m., according to the
Orland Park Police Department. The man grabbed her purse and car keys, kicked the woman in the leg and struck her in the chest with the car door while he got inside, before driving away north on 80th Avenue, police said.

** Police said an inappropriate picture was found on the cell phone of a Park Forest man previously accused of trying to lure two girls into his car.

Law enforcement found child pornography on the cell phone of a man arrested in 2011 for stalking two girls, according to police.

The Orland Park Police Department first arrested 57-year-old James M. Shaver on March 18, 2011 for stalking two girls ages 9 and 11 at the time, according to a release from the police department. Police said that two days prior, he tried to lure the girls into his car while they were walking home from school in the 15200 block of Orlan Brook Drive, and then offered to take them out for a milkshake the next day.

** Cook County Circuit Court Judge Peter Felice was about to set bail Tuesday morning at $500,000 for Homer Glen resident Jonathan Sarolas, 23, who is accused of
carjacking an Orland Park restaurant employee with a BB gun last week.

But considering that Sarolas had been released from state prison just 11 days before the June 25 incident, Felice upped the amount to $700,000 during a bond hearing at Bridgeview Courthouse on Tuesday, July 3.

"So, this is a parole violation?" Felice asked prosecutors. When they confirmed the violation, Felice raised the bail.

Attorneys for Sarolas asked for a "reasonable bond," noting that the Will County man is a high school graduate and has completed "some college" at Lakewood College.

That information didn't help Sarolas,
who was taken into custody by the Orland Park Police Department Friday at a Midlothian Metra station, after eluding capture for days after the incident. He was charged with aggravated vehicular hijacking, a Class X felony.

Sarolas didn't speak during the hearing and towered over his attorney with his 6-foot-5-inch frame. Cuts and bruises discolored his face.

Sarolas' attorney declined comment when questioned about the case.

April Schmidt of Woodriver, who police say was Sarolas' accomplice,
was also charged with aggravated vehicular hijacking. According to reports, the pair fled the parking lot of Red Lobster in Orland Park Monday night, after Sarolas held up an employee with a BB pistol and stole her car and purse.

Sarolas and Schmidt drove south in the stolen car on LaGrange, when police started chasing them. They turned west on 167th Street, and turned again onto Liberty Circle where they hit a dead end, as officers followed. Schmidt was picked up near the car and Sarolas ran from police.

And check out the spread of street gangs into the burbs at this list:

An outdated list, for sure, but it makes the point that gangs and gang factions are steadily moving into the burbs and marking turf (and fighting over turf).

The lesson to be learned for all of us on the Southwest Side? You can't successfully run away from crime by running to the suburbs.

The solution to crime in our neighborhoods is as close as our own mirrors. We have the ability to stand together against criminals, to stand shoulder to shoulder as we absolutely refuse to accept criminal activity and 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.

Gangbangers and other punks have no chance against a community of strong, smart men and women united against them and for each other. It's a contest of wills. A contest we can certainly win.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Gas Giveaway at 46th and Pulaski

We heard about a gas giveaway publicity stunt set to occur at the Mobil station at 4540 South Pulaski on Thursday, August 16.

First 200 vehicles get $20 in gas, from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.

So we headed over there to check it out.

Local side streets were clogged with people waiting hours in the rain for free gas---most notably 45th Street, for several blocks west of Pulaski.

But it turns out there is nothing local at all to report about those staging the stunt. A financial services company from Texas and three banking affiliates in Illinois---none headquartered here.

The rep dealing with the press (several TV cameras, Newsradio 780 and the SWCP) did not know for sure how or why the site was chosen for the stunt, other than to say they wanted to grab the attention of the Chicago media and harness its power to build brand recognition.

Fair enough; but not enough for the SWCP to hang its hat on.

The silver lining is that the first person in line was an unemployed veteran (Marine Corps) from Brighton Park. So it was good to see someone getting gas who really could use it. And we decided to angle the story towards him, in the hope that a local employer with a job to fill will see this story and help a local man get himself back in the workforce, where he wants to be and where he belongs.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Crime News Update

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. May all of us also remember that a person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

* * *

A man brandishing a kitchen knife unsuccessfully attempted to rob the Walgreens at 7150 West Archer at 3:20 p.m. Friday, August 10.

The man walked up to the pharmacy drop-off counter and handed a note to a 33-year-old pharmacist, telling her "Read what that says. You better do it quickly, or I'm gonna jump the counter!" At the same time, he displayed the knife as a threat.

The note demanded bottles of Xanax and Norco, trade names for two pain killers and tranquilizers that are addictive and often involved in prescription drug abuse.

The pharmacist told the robber she would comply with his demand, and then pretended to begin doing so while telling another Walgreens staffer to trip a silent alarm---which was done.

Apparently frustrated at waiting, the man walked over to the pharmacy's pick-up window and said to a 25-year-old pharmacist, "Give me all your Xanax and Norco in bottles!"

The pharmacist told the robber she would comply with his demand; but he would have to wait because the two drugs were not in stock at the moment.

Frustrated, the man walked out of the store. Pharmacists alerted the 40-year-old store manager, who watched the robber walk across the parking lot, across Archer and into the parking lot at Joe & Frank's Sausage Company, 7147 West Archer. He then got into a car and drove away southbound.

Walgreens staff told police they noticed a hospital-type band on the man's wrist, fueling speculation that he is a drug addict recently released from a hospital or substance abuse treatment clinic.

Staff described him as a white man, 43-52 years old, 5'10 to 6'1 and 160-230 pounds, fair complexion, wearing a black White Sox t-shirt with the image of a bear on it---over a long-sleeve yellow shirt. He was also wearing a gray White Sox baseball cap.

The manager told police that the man may have been the same person who attempted to rob the Walgreens pharmacy at 87th and Harlem, Bridgeview, four days earlier.

Police reviewed parking-lot surveillance video shared by Joe & Frank's and it showed the man pulling into the lot at 3:04 p.m. He was driving a light green Honda with a sunroof, missing a hub cap on the passenger front tire. The car is also damaged on both ends and is missing a headlight.

Police are also reviewing surveillance video from Walgreens.

* * *

A 21-year-old Clearing gangbanger has been arrested and charged with breaking into a car and stealing two radios.

Omar Juma is scheduled to appear in Cook County Circuit Court Branch 48-4, 155 West 51st Street, on Monday, August 20.

Omar Juma
At 3:08 a.m. Monday, August 13, police responded to a call of a theft from a 1999 Ford Contour parked on the 6400 block of west 63rd Place. The victim described the offender as wearing a red t-shirt, cut-off blue jeans and Nike Air Jordan athletic shoes. She said she saw him walking north on Natchez after committing the crime.

Police canvassed the area and learned that an offender with a similar description was wanted for theft from the 7-Eleven at 6754 West 63rd Street. They learned the suspect's name and home address, and then drove to Juma's home near 63rd and Natchez.

Juma's father let police in the home. Juma reportedly was wearing only cut-off shorts and asked police if he could put on a shirt and shoes before being taken into custody. Police agreed and followed him to his bedroom, where they observed a red t-shirt and a pair of Air Jordans on the floor. They also saw two car radios and a screwdriver.

Police asked Juma whose radios they were, and Juma allegedly replied, "I don't know. I think they're my friend's."

Police then transported Juma and the radios back to 63rd Place, where he was positively identified by the victim---who also said the radios were hers. Juma was then brought to the 7-Eleven, where he was positively identified by store staff.

* * *

A 21-year-old Scottsdale gangbanger was shot and killed last week after an argument with a thug from a rival gang.

Yousef Allan died at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn.

According to police, the incident occurred at 10:17 p.m. Thursday, August 9 on the street in front of 8330 South Kostner.

Allan was riding in a southbound SUV with at least two other gangbangers---a 20-year-old Burbank man and a 20-year-old Orland Park man. They told police that Allan saw a silver van coming up Kostner in the opposite direction. Allan recognized the van's occupants as rival gangbangers and allegedly said he was going to throw a brick at them.

Both vehicles slowed down and stopped at mid-block. Allan got out and argued with one of his rivals. The argument escalated, and Allan was shot in the back, falling to the asphalt. The silver van sped away north on Kostner. He was transported by Chicago Fire Department ambulance to the hospital, where he died at 10:53 p.m.

The killer was described as a white Hispanic man, 5'6 to 5'8 and 150-165 pounds, 20-25 years old, light complexion, brown hair in a "fade" style, wearing a white t-shirt.

* * *

A 56-year-old South Carolina man was robbed at gunpoint at 3:40 p.m. Thursday, August 9 in front of 4331 West 45th Street.

A man walked up to the victim on the street and asked if he wanted to buy a computer. The victim replied that he did not want to buy one and also does not have the money to buy one.

The robber then said, "Let's see what you do have," and went through the victim's pockets, throwing his wallet to the ground and stealing $260 (13 twenty-dollar bills). He then jumped into a waiting car with an accomplice and sped away south on Kolin in a beige 1997 Oldsmobile, which police traced to a woman in west suburban Bellwood.

The victim described the criminal as a black man, 35-40 years old, 5'8 and 180-190 pounds, dark complexion, short black hair. His accomplice was described only as a black man.

* * *

A 21-year-old Garfield Ridge man told police that he was robbed at 4:24 a.m. Friday, August 10 on the sidewalk in front of 5663 South Archer.

He said that four young men walked up to him and asked who he is and what his gang affiliation is. They then reportedly hit him in the back of the head, pushed him to the ground, pinned him and went through his pockets---taking his iPhone but not his wallet.

They then reportedly fled on bicycles, north on Laramie.

The victim described them all as white Hispanic men about age 21.

* * *

A routine traffic stop in Scottsdale yielded a pink stun gun.

At 11:36 a.m. Thursday, August 9, police stopped a car near 79th and Karlov because it had expired license plates.

The driver, 33-year-old Tameka Chaplin of 85th and California, also was driving on a suspended driver's license. As she was being placed in custody, she told police that she had a stun gun in her purse. Police confiscated the illegal weapon.

* * *

Burglars forced open the back door of a house near 66th Place and Springfield and stole $200 cash.

The crime was discovered by the victim, a 77-year-old man, when he came home at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, August 9.

* * *

Burglars forced open the back door of a house near 53rd and Hamlin and stole a laptop computer.

The crime was discovered by the victim, a 31-year-old woman, when she came home at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, August 9.

* * *

Want to learn how to reduce your risk of being a burglary victim---and hear useful advice directly from ex-burglars themselves? Attend a free, two-part crime prevention seminar set for 7:00 p.m. Monday, August 20 in the Kennedy High School auditorium, 56th and Narragansett. 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. The event is hosted by the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch group, and all Southwest Siders---not just Garfield Ridge residents---are welcome to attend.

* * *
A 70-year-old woman who noticed that a back window of her house near 83rd and Kolmar was open on Thursday, August 2 and thought nothing of it, noticed a week later that assorted jewelry was missing, including two gold rings, a silver Claddaugh ring, two bracelets, two necklaces, and six earrings.

* * *

Burglars entered an apartment building near 63rd and Kostner, broke through an attic access panel in a hallway, crawled above an apartment unit and then punched through the bathroom ceiling.

They then stole a TV and a laptop computer.

The crime was discovered by the tenant, a 43-year-old woman, at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, August 7.

* * *

Burglars broke through the side door of a house near 53rd and Kolin and stole assorted jewelry and $3,500 cash.

The crime was discovered by the victim, a 30-year-old woman, at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, August 9.

* * *

In what police are describing as a gang-related incident, two thugs robbed an 18-year-old Archer Heights man of a gold chain at 9:40 p.m. Friday, August 10 on the street near 52nd and Keeler.

The victim and two friends---an 18-year-old Gage Park man and a 19-year-old Chicago Lawn man, were on the sidewalk when two gangbangers in a maroon Ford Windstar drive by southbound on Keeler.

They doubled back around through the alley, and then emerged from a gangway near 5226 South Keeler. One of them brandished a knife and held it against the victim's neck as he yanked off the gold chain.

The victim's 18-year-old girlfriend came on the scene, saw what was occurring and screamed. Her scream apparently frightened the thugs, who fled on foot back to their vehicle.

Both criminals were described as white Hispanic men,19-22 years old, 5'10 and 170-180 pounds, black shaved hairstyles.

* * *

Burglars entered an unlocked service door of a garage near 64th and Old Harlem and stole a bicycle. They also entered an unlocked car in the garage and stole a pair of sunglasses.

The crime was discovered by the victim, a 60-year-old man, at 6:10 a.m. Friday, August 10.

* * *

Burglars pried open the service door of a garage near 54th and Linder and stole a lawn mower, an edger and a weed trimmer.

The crime was discovered by the victim, a 33-year-old man, at 8:45 a.m. Friday, August 10.

* * *

Burglars cut through a lock in the rear of RentalMax, 8522 South Pulaski, broke through a side window and stole three power saws worth a total of $4,000.

The crime was discovered by the manager at 3:00 p.m. Sunday, August 12 after a man living across the alley told him that the store's back fence appeared to have been damaged by tampering.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Consider Very Carefully When Choosing In-Home Caregiver or Senior Companion

Few things feel better than the independence and freedom of living in your own home.

And for those of us who are elderly, disabled or both, hiring in-home caregivers can be a smart move that helps us stay in our homes and avoid or at least delay a move to a nursing home.

But whether you're looking for an in-home nurse or something as simple as a woman to do light housekeeping, choosing a caregiver for an elderly mom, dad (or yourself, for that matter) is something that must be done carefully.

Sadly, headlines abound about caregivers who turn out to be nothing more than wolves in sheepskins.

** Three "caregivers" who conspired to bilk a 90-year-old Pennsylvania woman out of $260,000 drove the woman "to an early grave," a judge scolded at their trial. One of three used the stolen funds to buy a car; another used her cut of the loot to purchase cosmetic surgery---a breast lift and a tummy tuck.

**  A "caregiver" is caught by a hidden video camera, stealing $1,400 cash from a 73-year-old Indiana woman, who had just cashed her Social Security check and was planning to use the funds to pay for her late husband's gravestone.

** Two "caregivers" were arrested and charged with bilking an elderly Wisconsin couple (an 84 year-old man and his 81-year-old wife) out of more than $30,000 in cash, jewelry and valuables---including gold wedding bands the couple had exchanged before their 1948 ceremony.

Those are just three cases that made the news. Most don't, since they involve petty crimes like thefts of small amounts of cash or other items. And many, if not most thefts from the elderly, probably go unreported since they are never detected by the victims; or they are detected, but the elderly victims are too embarassed to make a police report.

And while a University of Kentucky study showed that the people most likely to swindle or mistreat the elderly are---ironically---their own adult children, hired caregivers came in second.

~ ~ ~

There are a growing number of big companies offering caregiver services in Chicago---like the Omaha-based Home Instead, the Ohio-based Comfort Keepers, or the Pennsylvania-based Visiting Angels service. But how do you find a caregiver who's honest and reliable?

Easier said than done, several people tell the Southwest Chicago Post.

"I went through a well-known, nationally-advertised service to hire an attendant for my mom," said Bill, a 45-year-old southwest suburban man whose 79-year-old mother lives in the West Lawn neighborhood.

"I've tried to get Mom to move out by us, but she won't leave the home where she and my dad lived and raised a family since 1952; and I can't be with her every day," he adds.

"So the company I hired sends over this girl---19 years old---to be my mom's caretaker. She doesn't live anywhere near my mom. She's from Harvey or somewhere in the south suburbs. Second week on the job, she's an hour late. No call, nothing, Just shows up an hour late. So my mom says, 'Why are you late?' And she says, like it's no big deal, 'Oh, I got arrested in Harvey and was in jail last night.'"

"So I call the service I hired and gave them hell. I said, "Hey, why are you sending me jailbirds? Your brochure said you screen your employees.' And they had the nerve to say, 'Just because she was arrested and spent the night in jail doesn't mean she's a criminal.'"

The man then terminated his agreement with the big caregiver company. Later, he discovered cash, jewelry and a few other valuables missing from his mother's home.

~ ~ ~

"These are the kind of heartbreaking stories I hear from time to time," says Judy Quinn Mullaney, a certified home companion and co-founder of Celtic Home Care. "Most of the elderly women and men we serve are those who tried the big companies and wound up having a bad experience with a caregiver who was indifferent at best and a thief at worst."

"A big part of the problem is, a lot of younger adults these days were never brought up to respect their elders; so they don't view their clients with the respect they should," she adds. "On the other hand, I look at the people I serve---and I know these are people of my parents' and even grandparents' generation, so I treat them as I would my own mother or father or grandma and grandpa. To me, that's not a big deal. It's just showing them the respect they've earned and deserve."

Celtic Home Care provides in-home services such as companionship, light housekeeping and laundry, meal preparation, shopping and errands, and basic personal care that can include (for example) assistance with bathing. 

Raised in West Lawn (a graduate of St. Mary Star of the Sea School and Lourdes High School) and currently a homeowner in Evergreen Park, Quinn Mullaney understands the importance of hiring a caregiver that an elderly woman or man can feel comfortable with.

"People want to know who is this person coming in my front door," she adds. "They want a bit of recognition, of familiarity, of gaining a little insight into a person's background and character. They want to know that I have an affinity with them, with the neighborhood, and more. I understand that. I'd be the same way, if the roles were reversed."

Celtic Home Care is co-owned by Cathy Ryan Schroeder, who grew up in Mount Greenwood and graduated from Queen of Martyrs School and Mother McAuley High School. She is a certified Emergency Medical Technician.

"Choosing a home companion or caregiver is a decision that must be made carefully," Ryan Schroeder adds. "We encourage prospective clients to meet with us and get to know us---and bring trusted friends and relatives into the mix for second and third opinions. It is really important to us that the people we serve are comfortable with us---kind of like a 'We're not satisfied 'til you're satisfied' situation."

"There are so many benefits to living in your own home---as opposed to moving away to a nursing home," she concludes. "You have comfort, convenience and familiarity. You don't have to move away from longtime neighbors and friends; and you don't have to part with your pets. Our goal as caregivers is to work with you to make sure you keep all those benefits, now and for the future."

For more information about Celtic Home Care call (708) 529-0436 or email

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