Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Back to Basics for Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch in 2016

The Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch plans to fight crime
in 2016 with a “back to basics” approach of tire treads and shoe leather, the group announced earlier this week.

“We have no new initiatives to unveil,” said GRNW President Al Cacciottolo. “That’s because we are re-discovering our roots and re-focusing on what works, what we’ve done successfully since Day One: simply patrolling our neighborhood’s streets, alleys and parks.”

The announcement was made at the group’s January meeting, held at the firehouse at 56th and Narragansett. More than 40 men and women, mostly GRNW members, turned out on one of the coldest nights of the year.

Cacciottolo said that while GRNW members patrol year round, at different times on all days of the week, relatively few of the group’s 110 members are currently patrolling. He chalked that up to complacency caused by Garfield Ridge’s relatively low crime numbers, which he said are even lower than they were five years ago.

“Our members who are not currently patrolling need to get active again—during the day, the evening, walking, jogging, riding your bike, walking your dog, in your car. We need to be out in the streets to be extra sets of eyes and ears for the police,” he said.

He also called upon Garfield Ridge residents who are not GRNW members to open their eyes and ears, as well, and call 911 promptly to report anything suspicious. Those who are not comfortable calling 911 are encouraged to call the GRNW’s tip line at 1-855-811-TIPS (8477) to report situations that may need attention.

“The police we have out here are phenomenal,” Cacciottolo said. “You see any call for help, any call to 911 to report something in progress, and you see six squads coming fast and from all directions. But they can’t do it alone, so we need to do all we can to work with them and support their efforts.”

Patrolling is simple, added GRNW Secretary Michele
Doherty, noting that the group provides guidance.

“Also, we are developing specific tasks for people on patrol,” she said at the meeting. “So if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to just walk or drive up and down streets, we can give you a task. We will tailor the opportunity to your schedule, your availability and your likes.”

She added that GRNW members on patrol look for and report much more than what may be crimes in progress. Members look for things that are suspicious, like open garage doors, as well as “quality of life” details that need to be called in and addressed—like graffiti, burned-out streetlights, potholes, obstructed street signs and more.

Also at the meeting, Cacciottolo sounded a note of caution
about believing information posted on Facebook and other forms of social media.

“Some of these people on Facebook, they listen to the police scanner and they post information online the minute they hear it,” he said. “The problem is, what is broadcast on the scanner often turns out later to be very different from what actually happened—or didn’t happen—on the street. But by that time, they get people whipped up on Facebook, and many of them go away believing the initial report without hearing what the facts were.”

As an example, he said that something initially reported over the scanner as gunshots turned out to be a car backfiring, but the unfounded rumor about gunfire persisted for days in the neighborhood.

As a bonus Monday-- while the weather was in the single
digits with a sub-zero windchill, the firehouse at 56th and Narragansett was warm inside. It also was friendly, thanks to firefighters who cooked and served hot chili for GRNW members and guests. The CFD crew also bought and served coffee and dessert. The appreciative GRNW audience applauded their efforts, and several individuals shared tales of local firefighters and paramedics going above and beyond the call of duty to serve the people of Garfield Ridge.


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.

The GRNW is widely viewed as one of the most effective citizen-led crime prevention organizations in the city or suburbs

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 on patrol 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 played a role in the capture several years ago of a man who attempted to rob a local Walgreens at knifepoint.

The next GRNW public meeting is set for 7 p.m. Monday, March 21 at a location that will be announced in the weeks ahead. Those interested in joining the group now are encouraged to send a message to email@garfieldridgenw.com.

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