|GRNW President Al Cacciottolo|
“We need to step it up, and we will,” said GRNW President Al Cacciottolo at a public meeting Monday at Byrne Elementary School, 54th and Oak Park, as he called upon all 110 GRNW members to consider signing up to patrol all day on Oct. 31 and even overnight into Sunday, Nov. 1.
“We’re not anticipating any specific problems [on Halloween],” Cacciottolo said. “We just want to be out in force so if we see anything, we can nip it in the bud.”
He added that while the GRNW’s efforts will include all of police beat 811 (all of Garfield Ridge west of Central Avenue), the group will focus on popular teen hangouts like Valley Forge Park and Byrne School.
Cacciottolo noted that additional lighting was recently installed outside Byrne “to help keep the punks at bay.”
Further, he said that the GRNW is contacting all local grocery stores and convenience stores to ask that they limit the sale of eggs to people age 21 and older on Halloween. Throwing eggs at houses, businesses, passing vehicles and people is a decades-old act of vandalism associated with Halloween.
Founded in 2011 by three people fed up with crime in the area, the GRNW has grown in size and strength and has been credited with helping reduce crime in Garfield Ridge, long one of Chicago’s safest and best neighborhoods.
Born with assistance from the Clearing Night Force, the GRNW has helped start neighborhood watches in city neighborhoods as far away as Hegewisch and as close as West Elsdon, as well as in suburban areas like Central Stickney, Summit and Oak Lawn.
GRNW members do not pursue criminals or get directly involved with crimes in progress, but they do serve as extra sets of eyes and ears for police, providing direction that has helped police solve crimes in some cases and prevent others. Their toll-free tip line (1-855-811-TIPS) played a role in the capture and conviction several years ago of a man who attempted to rob a local Walgreens at knifepoint.
Monday’s event at Byrne was the last public meeting the GRNW will hold this year, although the group’s board of directors will continue to meet and plan strategies for 2016. Watch members will continue to patrol Beat 811, in vehicles and on foot, as they do year-round.
The next GRNW public meeting may be held in the firehouse at 56th and Narragansett in January or February. Details will be announced in the weeks ahead.
“Even though our public meetings take a break, we don’t, and we encourage all Garfield Ridge residents to do the same,” Cacciottolo added. “Keep your eyes and ears open, get to know your neighbors and look out for each other. If you see anything suspicious, something that could be a crime in progress or something that could develop into that, call 911 and report it. Give police the chance to check it out. The worst 911 call is the one you don’t make. So make the call.”
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