Thursday, March 23, 2017

Crime-Fighting Patrols May Start This Year in the Vittum Park Neighborhood

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

The Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch’s crime fighting efforts—limited to the central and western sections of the neighborhood since its founding in 2011—may soon expand east to include the rest of the community, GRNW officials announced this week.

“What happens east of Central Avenue affects those of us

living west of Central,” said GRNW President Al Cacciottolo. “Whatever we can do to help our neighbors to the east, we definitely will.”

The announcement was made at the GRNW’s March meeting, held Monday night in Brennan Hall at St. Daniel the Prophet Parish. About 75 people attended.

Cacciottolo said he was asked at a recent Vittum Park Civic League meeting if the GRNW would help the VPCL establish a crime-fighting presence.

“The civic league members said, ‘We’re Garfield Ridge, too,’ so I said yes, of course, we’ll help,” the GRNW president said. “But our role will mostly be limited to sharing our organizational abilities to help getting their effort up and running. They themselves will have to take the lead and do the day-in, day-out work of street patrols and other neighborhood watch activities—and that’s as it should be.”

The Vittum Park area had a neighborhood watch program
GRNW members talk with top local CPD officials.
decades ago, according to longtime VPCL President Phil LoPresti, anchored by local men who patrolled in their own cars at night, typically in touch with each other via two-way radios.

The existence of a neighborhood watch made Vittum Park a more attractive community and helped convince LoPresti to buy a home there in 1972, he said.

VPCL’s neighborhood watch efforts have not yet taken shape, and it is unclear at this point if patrols will include all of eastern Garfield Ridge or simply the blocks around Vittum Park.

“I like the way the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch operates,” LoPresti said the day after the GRNW meeting. “They patrol at all different times of day and night, and not just from their cars. They have people walking, on bikes and so forth. It’s good to have good people with their eyes and ears open.”

LoPresti said he hopes that whatever effort takes shape east of Central Avenue will also include neighboring communities like unincorporated Central Stickney (an area from 47th to 51st Street, Laramie to Central).

He added that if such a crime-fighting effort is to be successful, “we must have younger people step forward and volunteer. Our civic league is a good group, but we’re not that big and our membership is older than it was.”

The issue is expected to move forward at the next VPCL meeting, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 4 at the park fieldhouse, 5010 W. 50th St. All local residents are invited to attend.

Still one of the safest and most desirable residential areas in the city, the eastern section of Garfield Ridge has seen its share of high-profile crime in the last year—including the fatal shooting of a pizza delivery driver last December and the robbery and beating of a 94-year-old woman in her own home near 51st and Lorel.


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, April 17 at the Bridgeview Bank branch at Archer and Mulligan. Those interested in joining the group now are encouraged to send a message to

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