ENGLEWOOD — Business owners and local activists have stepped up in Englewood to stand watch at neighborhood gas stations amid a citywide spike in carjackings, a community initiative lauded during an Englewood Town Hall meeting Tuesday night.
Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th) commended the community for stepping up to help each other. She pointed to “Operation Safe Pump” as an example of the effort.
According to Coleman, for the next 30 days, groups of volunteers led by W&W Towing owner Early Walker and Kates Detective Agency owner William Kates will monitor the stations in the evening.
The effort was one of many topics tackled on the Englewood Town Hall zoom call, the second joint public meeting in two years bringing together the five aldermen who have a portion of Englewood in their ward.
Over 200 residents joined the call, which was simulcast on Facebook Live and CAN-TV. Moderated by Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation Executive Director Derrick Warren, the two-hour event allowed residents the opportunity to ask Coleman and her four fellow aldermen — Alds. Roderick Sawyer (6th), Raymond Lopez (15th), David Moore (17th) and Jeannette Taylor (20th) — questions ranging from public safety to trash pickup.
New Englewood (7th) Police District Commander Rodney Hill assured residents police are working to crack down on the carjackers.
“We want to stop the right people from doing these crimes out there. We’re not going to just throw a blanket over this entire thing and stop everyone, but there’s a couple of things we can do as citizens,” said Hill, who stepped into his new role after his predecessor, Larry Snelling, was promoted in November.
“One or two is still too many, especially when women are being targeted at gas stations, or at home while putting up our groceries,” said Coleman.
In West Englewood, Lopez has implemented “traffic calming measures” like traffic circles to make the community “less inviting” to would-be thieves. The alderman told residents he’s had discussions with Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi about the possibility of using tax increment financing dollars for additional traffic circles throughout the rest of area.
“It’ll make it harder for individuals to think about using our community as a target,” added Lopez.
One longtime Englewood resident who listed his name as Larry Richatd on the public meeting, criticized police for having a revolving door of commanders in the 7th District, and called for the “Englewood Five” aldermen to take a tougher stance on crime.
The man told the aldermen that after years of excuses, now was the time to take “bold action.”
“I’ve heard ‘we didn’t get into this situation overnight’ for the last 30, 40 years. All that development you all are trying to do won’t mean anything if people don’t feel safe and secure. You have to stop making excuses for these kids,” he said. “Yes, they’re 15 years old, but they’re not doing what a typical 15 year old will do, and yet they still get more help than the ones that haven’t been in trouble.”
One alderman, Taylor, pushed back on the idea, noting the lack of young people participating in the town hall.
“Part of the problem is that the police are answering things they have no business answering, which is how we got in this situation,” said Taylor. “It’s not about being tough on young people, it’s about making sure they have access to all these wonderful programs and things we have in the community.”
Taylor also pointed to the lack of cohesion between churches and community organizations, adding that Englewood is fighting two pandemics: COVID-19 and racism.
“At the end of the day it’s easy to blame the victim. This generation ain’t lost. It’s been neglected, and that’s on us. We have to get back to community. When we saw young people doing wrong, we used to check them. I get that we’re scared now, but we’ve got to get past that,” said Taylor.
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