Southwest Chicago Post
Editor and Publisher
In the wake of a drive-by homicide eight weeks ago in the
5200 block of South Kolin, four members of the Archer
Heights Civic Association canvassed the block to rally neighbors against crime.
“We need people on this block to get more involved,” said AHCA President Thomas S. Baliga as he rang doorbells with Kathy Kerwin, Juanita Beltran and Michael Kovac, AHCA’s point person on crime prevention.
The quartet climbed steps and rang doorbells at 29 residential buildings on the block, with 17 households opening their doors and 14 of them joining the AHCA on the spot—their first year’s dues of $15 covered by donations from current AHCA members.
Prior to the AHCA walkabout last week, just three households on the block were civic association members. The new members will be added to the AHCA roster of 800 households, making it the largest neighborhood advocacy group in the city. It also is the oldest, founded in 1938.
“We use situations like these to organize, to mobilize people around important issues—crime prevention being just one of them,” Baliga said. “We talk about the importance of joining and being active with a local civic association like ours, and the message has a positive impact on most people. Plus, Mike [Kovac] uses the opportunity to make people aware of the Police Department’s monthly CAPS meetings. We strongly urge our members and residents to go to CAPS meetings so they can become acquainted with the police officers that actually patrol our neighborhood and the police can get to know the people in the community.”
The block was in the news two months ago. Andres Rivera, 58, was shot in the head and killed as he was eating dinner at his home at 8:08 p.m. Saturday, May 7. Rivera was struck by a bullet that tore through the home’s front door. He died at the scene.
Police have said they believe that the shooting was gang-related, but that Rivera was most likely not the target. According to a published report, police said that at least one of Rivera’s sons is a known gang member. He may possibly have been the target.
“Almost all of the members we signed up said they moved to Archer Heights because it is a beautiful, safe area--and they were shocked to see or hear about the shooting,” Baliga said after he and the other three volunteers spent more than two hours on the block. “They also said they were grateful that we canvassed the block to assure them there are many like-minded individuals in the community.
“Some of the new members said that while the shooting was very tragic, it was not scaring them off the block,” Baliga continued. “During our time there we did notice people out with their kids and dogs, so somewhat of a sense of normalcy has returned.”
Also important, he added, “We also noticed a stepped up police presence in that block. The police are doing their job, and we as a civic group are doing our job by rallying the community, supporting CAPS and urging the people to get involved.”
He said that in addition to simply letting people know about the AHCA and CAPS, the walkabout’s other goal “was to get people to know each other on the block and get them talking to each other so that they could know who belongs on the block. With such a penetration, more neighbors will be able to talk to each other and get those that we missed
to sign up, since they now have a common talking point to start a conversation.”
The AHCA is currently on its summer break from public meetings, although the group’s officers, committees and other members continue their duties. The walkabouts
will continue throughout the summer until the Walkabout Fund is exhausted. Baliga said that any current AHCA members who want to contribute to the fund should mail a check for $15 (or multiples thereof, payable to the AHCA) to AHCA, 4444 S. Pulaski, second floor, Chicago, IL 60632 and specify the check is for the fund to pay a new member’s dues.
Those interested in contacting the group over the summer are encouraged to call (773) 843-2232 and leave a clear message that includes name, address and telephone number.
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