WEST LAWN — When Tonyada Rhodes heard about the city’s plan to reimburse people for their security cameras and lighting systems, she said she thought it was a great idea.
A single mother living in Hegewisch, Rhodes said she’s wanted a security system for some time, but she couldn’t afford it.
“People would be more deterred away from doing negative things if they knew that they were being watched,” she said.
The security camera plan was just one of several programs city and officials discussed at a public safety town hall on public safety Monday night at Richard J. Daley College, 7500 S. Pulaski Road. A few hundred Southwest Siders, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown were in attendance.
Lightfoot and Brown roamed around the tables, sometimes sitting down and joining discussions.
“While we have made progress already in the first quarter, we know that we’ve got more road to travel to bring safety and peace to every neighborhood,” Lightfoot said to the crowd.
“The violence that we are seeing we believe is a public health crisis, and we’ve got to view this through the lens of public health, and really look at, ‘What are the root causes of the violence?’ And a lot of it revolves around the lack of investments in people, in places for far too long,” she said.
People asked Lightfoot and the other officials about a range of topics, including defunding the police, how police are going to stave off summer violence and how neighborhoods can engage the youth.
Many said there needs to be better communication between neighbors and police and asked for opportunities to get to know beat officers.
One woman from the Ashburn/Wrightwood area said it’s sometimes difficult to figure out how to get involved in public safety meetings, but she wants to learn more about them. She said she’s “old-school” and is used to a time when everyone on a block knew each other and looked out for one another.
Tamara Mahal from the city’s Community Safety Coordination Center spoke about new city funding coming this summer to incentivize neighbors to hold more block parties and establish block clubs in order to get people more involved in what’s going on around their homes.
“The stronger relationship you have with your neighbor, the safer block you’re going to be living on,” Mahal said.
Vernon Wiltz, who works for the 18th Ward office in Ashburn, said he agreed it’s important for people on blocks to know each other. He said he often hears from neighbors who say they don’t know how to get involved in their neighborhood.
Attending Monday’s town hall was a good first step, Wiltz noted, as neighbors were able to directly ask questions and discuss solutions with the city’s top officials.
“It’s a start,” he said.