By Wendell Hutson
One by one residents from Hyde Park, Kenwood and Bronzeville told horror stories about crime they’ve witnessed in their neighborhoods at a public safety meeting hosted by the Chicago Police Department’s 2nd District
The Wednesday meeting at Morningstar Baptist Church, 3993 S. King Drive, was moderated by Alds. Sophia King (4th) and Pat Dowell (3rd), and attracted nearly 100 people, mostly homeowners, who said they were concerned about their property value dropping due to crime.
“I live in a condo building in Hyde Park and I heard my neighbors [a husband and wife] fighting,” recalled Marilyn Johnson. “ I called the police to report a disturbance but when the police arrived they told me it was nothing they could do because the wife refused to press charges.”
When that happens 2nd District Police Commander Deon Boyd said it’s not much police can do.
“Unfortunately, disturbance is not a crime. If you witness someone fighting that’s disorderly conduct and we could make an arrest,” explained Boyd. “But if two people are fighting in the privacy of their home and the victim refuses to press charges, there’s nothing we can do.”
Boyd added that if an officer responds to a domestic call and notices injuries to the victim an arrest could be made without the victim filing charges. And an officer would need to gain entry to a residence from the homeowner as well.
“We cannot violate their rights and force our way into their home [unless someone is in imminent danger] if they choose not to open the door when we arrive,” said Boyd.
Another Hyde Park resident told her tale about pulling up into her garage in the afternoon when she saw two young males running down the alley with masks on holding what she suspected was stolen items.
“Luckily they did not see me because if they had, who knows what they might have done,” said Barbara Stewart. “I was scared then and I am scared now for what might happen the next time.”
Boyd discussed different crime tactics police officers from the 2nd District are using to reduce crime, such as more video surveillance and traffic stops.
“Recently we arrested a man at the Red Line station at 47th Street after cameras noticed a gun on his waistband,” he said. “I believe we saved someone’s life by taking a gun off the street.”
According to Boyd, there were 24 homicides last year in the 2nd District, which includes Hyde Park and Kenwood, and this year only 18 have occurred. And there were 82 shootings in 2017 opposed to 71 this year.
“I know the decrease may seem small but it’s progress and I’ll take any progress we can make when it comes to curbing violence,” added Boyd.
King said technology is great and that she is pushing for more cameras to be installed in the 4th ward especially in areas where “we think they are needed.”
But residents said while they are happy for some improvements more needs to be done to keep residents safe and keep businesses from relocating elsewhere.
“I’m afraid Hyde park could soon look like other South Side communities filled with abandoned buildings left empty from businesses closing shop because of crime, “ said Mitchell Turner, a Hyde Park resident for 14 years. “I moved to Hyde Park from Woodlawn because I wanted a better place to raise my children and have them attend better schools. I hope I did not make a mistake coming here.”
Other areas of concern voiced by residents included a greater police presence on the bike trail off Lakeshore Drive and the Red Line station at Garfield Boulevard. Residents also said they would like to see the Central Arms Hotel, 520 E. 47th St., closed.
Police Sgt. Michael Fitzgerald explained the role of detectives, who investigate crimes, such as shootings and murders, and a representative from the city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability also known as COPA, explained how the agency investigates police officers accused of wrongdoing, such as unjustified shootings and official misconduct.
One Bronzeville resident said the hotel attracts gang bangers, drug dealers, drug users, and prostitutes to the area.
“No working-class individual is renting a room there. No one goes there to stay but people involved in illegal activities,” said Brandon Holmes. “I don’t understand how a business like that can remain open when the police know what goes on there.”
Dowell said one reason why certain businesses like the Central Arms Hotel are hard to shutdown is due to a lack of community involvement.
“We need residents to show up to housing court so the judge can see what a negative impact this business [Central Arms Hotel] is having on the community,” said Dowell. “The more people that show up the better.”