By TONIA HILL
In September, the Hyde Park Herald wrote an editorial titled “Time to Revive the WhistleSTOP Program,” due to a rash of robberies that took place in the neighborhood during the summer months. On Dec. 10, the WhistleSTOP program was revived with a mini-launch at Harper Court, 5235 S. Harper Ct., and at Treasure Island, 1526 E. 55th St. during the Hyde Park Holly-Day Celebration.
Stephanie Franklin, a member of Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (HPKCC), said The WhistleSTOP program initially began in the Hyde Park community; in 1972 since then there has been a couple of lapses in the program and resurgences over time.
“Reigniting the program is necessary for the community because there are new members of the community who are not familiar with it,” said Franklin, who said the re-launch of the WhistleSTOP program had been something she has tried to restart for the last few years.
The program has a three-pronged approach: individual action, neighborhood action, and citizen police action. Franklin said that she witnessed WhistleSTOP work successfully years ago.
If someone is attempting to snatch a purse, the victim can use their whistle for help; a community member will hear the distress signal to alert others in the area, and the result could lead to the assailant being surrounded by whistleblowers who can then call the police for assistance.
Franklin said the fatal shooting of 33-year-old Curtis Nowells, Dec. 2, in Cornell Park, 5473 S. Cornell Ave., left her disappointed.
“Whether or not [WhistleSTOP] would have made a difference I don’t know, maybe someone would have been able to get the license plate number of the assailant who fled in a car,” Franklin said. “It would have been a good time for whistles.”
Franklin said 100 whistles were sold on, Dec. 2.
In addition to Saturday’s mini-launch, Franklin has asked several Hyde Park institutions and businesses to sell the $2 whistles in the future. To date Hyde Park Bank,1525 E. 53rd St., Hyde Park Neighborhood Club (HPNC), 5840 S. Kenwood Ave., Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, 1715 E. 55th St., the South East Chicago Commission (SECC), 1511 E. 53rd St., Noteworthy Notes, 5231 S. Harper Ct. and Bank Financial, 1354 E. 55th St., have all agreed to be sites where community members can purchase whistles.
Franklin has also reached out to the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) and she said it is onboard with the program.
Sarah Diwan executive director of the HPNC said, the “HPNC is happy to be a centrally located site for whistle distribution, and we support the support the program.”
Michael McGarry, president of the Hyde Park Bank is also backing the program.
“I am excited to see it and be a part of it,” McGarry said. “If everyone keeps their eyes open and looks out for one another it will only make us better as a neighborhood.”
Wendy Walker Williams, executive director of SECC said the organization is also on board.
“Since our location is on 53rd Street we thought it was a good idea to have people come and pick up their whistles,” Walker Williams said. “As soon as we receive them we will pass them out. Safety is important.”
The Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce and the UCPD were not available for comment by Herald press time.