Thursday, September 6, 2012

Vittum Park Civic League Hears Police Commander's Take on Crime Concerns

Chicago Police Department Eighth District Commander David R. McNaughton introduced himself to another local group on Wednesday night---this time the Vittum Park Civic League--and gave a ringing endorsement of the men and women he commands.

"In this district, we have some of the best police in the entire City of Chicago," he said. "They perform exceptionally well---often under difficult and challenging circumstances. I can never praise them enough. They're doing a great job."

The meeting, presided over by VPCL President Philip Lopresti, was held at the Vittum Park Fieldhouse. A little more than two dozen people were in attendance.

After offering a little background on himself and on the CompStat crime-fighting system currently in use by CPD, McNaughton took questions.

** In response to one man's concern about a perceived increase in robberies in the Vittum Park area---even in daylight hours---McNaughton said that most "index" crimes are actually down in the district, but acknowledged the concern. He discussed several ways that police fight crime---including use of increasingly available surveillance video from cameras deployed by businesses and homeowners, as well as finding ways to impound criminals' vehicles, making it much more difficult for them to commit robbery, burglary, etc.

** McNaughton addressed a concern about graffiti by praising the city's Graffiti Blasters initiative, but quickly added that city officials "...haven't staffed it like they did in the past; so the response is a little slower, and that has encouraged taggers." He added that police do sometimes catch taggers in the act and talked about how taggers were recently spotted defacing the World's Finest Chocolate plant at 4801 South Lawndale---and then arrested by police after a chase near the Curie High School athletic fields.

** Another man raised the issue of CPD staffing---noting that police ranks have plummeted by literally thousands in recent years. While avoiding a debate about numbers, McNaughton said that in making comparisons, other factors should be taken into account. "Keep in mind, the population of the city is down, too. We used to be a city of 3.5 million people; now we're at what---2.7 million?" He added that it might logically follow that the police force should be smaller by a similar ratio.

"But don't get me wrong," he added. "Every single district commander, if asked 'Would you like more police?' will answer 'Sure.'"

"But we don't come cheap," he said. "Every police officer has a salary, a pension and so forth."

But the larger issue of deciding how many police are enough and figuring out how to pay for it all " something that's above my pay grade," McNaughton added, implying that such questions are better directed to elected officials.

**  With the demolition of the Leclaire Courts public housing complex, McNaughton said that the area's old open-air drug market has given way to a new form of illegal drug dealing that involves use of cell phones and buyers' and sellers' cars hitting rendezvous points in the area---making dealers a moving target and more challenging for police to stop.

**   In response to a complaint about numerous panhandlers on Cicero Avenue at the Stevenson Expressway, McNaughton vowed to "...get on it."

** Regarding a longstanding complaint in the area---prostitutes along Cicero Avenue and 47th Street---McNaughton said he has officers working undercover but also acknowledged the difficulty of addressing the problem in a lasting manner. He added that a number of prostitutes are from out of state. "They're even trucking them in," he said. "One young woman was from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They work here for a day or so and then get on a Greyhound Bus and go home."

** Regarding complaints about loud music at house and yard parties that last into the night, McNaughton was unclear on the specifics of Chicago's ordinance against noise nuisances, but advised people to call 911. "It never hurts to call 911," he said. "Now, if you're calling on a busy Friday night---will we get out there right away to look into it? We might not. It might take a while. But don't hesitate to call 911. We prioritize calls."

McNaughton mentioned that he has spoken at the local CAPS meeting (Beat 814) at the Vittum Park Fieldhouse and encouraged everyone to get involved with CAPS.

The next Beat 814 meeting is set for 7:00 p.m.Thursday, September 13 at Vittum Park.

Vittum Park Civic League meetings are typically held on the first Wednesday evening of the month at Vittum Park.

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