By Tim Hadac
Southwest Chicago Post
Following through on a pledge by Chicago Lawn (8th) District Commander Ronald Pontecore to enforce laws against public nuisances, police have made four “traffic obstruction” arrests in the last six weeks in the Scottsdale area—a neighborhood where some residents have for decades complained about aggressive panhandlers at busy intersections—often with little or no response by police.
Police did not say if the four people apprehended were panhandling, but they did charge each with obstruction of traffic by a non-motorist.
The most recent “obstruction” arrest occurred at 1 p.m. Friday, April 13, when 42-year-old Christina Dankert was apprehended at 79th and Cicero.
Ervin Schlosser, 51, was arrested by police near 87th and Pulaski at 8:48 a.m. Saturday, March 17.
“Kudos to CPD for enforcing the laws,” Huff wrote on the SNW Facebook page. “Minor issue or not, these are ‘quality of life’ issues that can become bigger issues.
“These people getting charged often go and do other illegal activities,” he continued. “Those who say they should not be arrested have not been harassed by these individuals or may not realize that some these ‘homeless’ are actually not homeless and are just hustling kind-hearted people.”
Beggars—some with cardboard signs and others with squeegees and water—have been a sore spot among some on the Southwest Side in recent years, particularly in cases where panhandlers turn aggressive toward motorists at intersections.
Street musicians— bucket boys in particular—are often thrown into the angry mix when the young percussionists roam between lanes of traffic and aggressively solicit donations.
Some people object to police action against panhandlers, saying that those working intersections are more in need of food, shelter, substance abuse services and mental health counseling than they are a jail cell.
Others point out that police are police--not social workers equipped to deal with societal ills--and that duty dictates a response to 911 calls about all crime, no matter how minor.
The recent police action in Scottsdale is consistent with remarks Pontecore made publicly last August at a West Elsdon Civic Association meeting.
At that event at Hancock High School, the commander acknowledged that calls about panhandlers are typically the lowest priority for police up to their elbows in calls relating to shootings, stabbings, sexual assault, robbery, burglary, theft and other “index” crimes. But he encouraged everyone to call 911 to report aggressive panhandlers because they may represent “little problems that can turn into bigger problems.”
Pontecore also has vowed to use the resources he has available to fight street-walking sex workers in the Archer Heights/Vittum Park area, most notably near 49th and Cicero—a move cheered by a number of local residents, including Archer Heights Civic Association President Thomas S. Baliga, who has called Pontecore “a hardworking leader…who has staged two roll calls in Archer Park and committed resources to missions on Cicero Avenue to combat both gang activity and prostitution.”
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