RAVENSWOOD MANOR — Neighbors have urged local leaders to crack down on rising gun violence on the Northwest Side for nearly a year.
After months of public meetings, disagreements and appeals to the mayor, shootings in Ravenswood Manor, Albany Park and Irving Park finally seem to have slowed down, according to neighbors and police.
There were three reported shootings Oct. 11-Sunday in the 17th Police District, according to police data.
For comparison, there were nine reported shootings Aug. 23-Sept. 20.
There have been 57 shootings and 11 homicides reported in the 17th District this year, compared to 25 shootings and five homicides at this point in 2019, according to police data.
Kyle Wolfe, who moved to Ravenswood Manor a year ago, said she heard several shootings over the summer. She started following neighbors’ reports of the shootings on social media and looking for information from the police scanner on Twitter.
“There hasn’t been much happening online or that I’ve heard over the last three weeks about shootings as far as I can tell,” she said.
Tensions about the frequent shootings — which police blamed on multiple escalating gang-related conflicts — came to a head in September.
After a summer of civil unrest, several progressive aldermen, including Ald. Rossana Rodriguez (33rd), became more vocal proponents of diverting some funding from the Police Department to social service programs that would tackle root causes of violence.
While some neighbors supported that as a long-term approach, in the short-term, they also wanted more police resources in the area. Some felt Rodriguez was ignoring those pleas as shootings and homicides more than doubled, but the alderman rejected those claims and did help bring more resources to the police district.
In mid-October, city officials announced nine more officers were being assigned to the district, temporary surveillance cameras were installed and anti-violence community workers were being sent to quell gang conflicts.
Last month, police installed a permanent surveillance camera at the intersection of Montrose and California avenues, just north of Horner Park, thanks to menu money from Rodriguez’s office.
“The new camera they installed by Horner Park. I think that helped,” said Kathy Monk, a longtime Ravenswood Manor resident.
These police cameras, which can cost $25,000-$27,000, are connected to the department’s surveillance network.
The cameras help police identify cars involved in a shooting, burglary or other crime and officers are able to identify details like license plate numbers from a considerable distance, officer Jerry Zanders said during a Tuesday public safety meeting.
“These cameras have been wonderful there, as far as tracking these offenders,” Zanders said.
A second police camera is planned for Kimball Avenue and Irving Park Road. It will be paid for using menu money from Rodriguez and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Zanders said.
Luis Correa, who lives near Montrose and Francisco avenues, credited the new cameras with helping reduce violent crime.
Correa has lived near the intersection for the past 20 years. Over the past year, he’s avoided going out at night because of the uptick in shootings.
“We had a lot of broken car windows and heard a lot of gunshots over the summer here,” Correa said in Spanish. “I think that new camera has helped with making it quiet again. If that camera has a good zoom, that’s probably what did it. And overall, this area isn’t really that bad. It’s a nice neighborhood.”
Some neighbors, like Mariela Valencia, said the cameras aren’t as effective as the increase in police patrols.
Valencia, of Albany Park, said she is skeptical the camera at Montrose and California alone helped curb the violence. She has seen more officers regularly patrolling the area.
“Over the last three weeks, I haven’t heard any shootings,” Valencia said in Spanish.
Still, she said she is frustrated police don’t routinely respond to 911 calls in a timely fashion.
“I’ve called 911 telling police I’m seeing four people shooting at each other and they never come,” she said. “Honestly, I’ll see three patrol cars show up when there’s a protest march in the neighborhood, which is more than I see when we called for shootings this summer. It’s absurd.”
Some neighbors signed a petition in September asking for officials to invest more money in community outreach, housing stability and violence interrupter programs, among other things, instead of more police to address the violence.
Metropolitan Family Services is interviewing violence interrupters who are expected to be deployed in the neighborhood by the end of the month, said Bridget Hatch, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit.
Neighbors are relieved there has finally been some calm in the area after a difficult year.
The change has been so stark some neighbors easily could identify the pops they heard last weekend as fireworks — not gunfire — celebrating the election win of Joe Biden.
“It’s gotten so much better in like the last three weeks,” Monk said. “Whatever police did, I would say it’s working.”
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