By DIANE TURNER-HURNS
Journal & Topics Reporter
Nearly 25 members of the Rosemont Public Safety Department stand at attention outside the Rosemont Recreation Center, 7128 Barry St., for a review by their commanders, update on crime and words of support before their 12-hour shift on bike, foot and car begins.
The 7 p.m. Thursday, July 28 roll call gathers just before the monthly community public safety meeting inside the recreation center, where residents heard how crime stats are down, in addition to two success stories.
Roll call is held before every shift. That evening, officers hear of a possible spillover of protesters from the four-day Lollapalooza music fest in Chicago, to an update on the arrest of car burglars in the village.
“Let us know if backup is needed, keep an eye on each other and stay safe,” Deputy Chief for Bureau of Patrol Kevin Kukulka tells the officers, still standing at attention.
They fan out into the village, some heading to patrol the MB Financial Park entertainment area where the weekly concert series and fireworks are held on Thursdays.
Looking on are about a dozen people, adults and children.
Moments later, Public Safety Chief Donald E. Stephens III, Kukula and other officers make their way into the recreation center to a welcoming crowd of about 15 residents. The monthly meetings have become a valuable way to share information on local crime activities, prevention and community updates.
“I want to share with you a success story,” says Stephens. “A success story because it shows how trust continues to build with our officers and the community.
“Last week an officer was called to an apartment here in the area to help a 9-month-old baby who was not breathing. When he arrived the baby was handed to him, he performed CPR and saved the baby. I’m very happy to say that the baby is alive today because of that officer.”
Stephens said the officer, who he did not want to immediately identify, would receive a commendation in October along with other officers who will be recognized for going above and beyond.
Prior to hearing about the officer saving the baby, one resident told the group: “I want to thank your officers because they saved my dog, Rex. One night I heard this tapping on my door. It was late and when I opened it I found a couple of police officers holding my dog. They had found him wandering around and identified his home from his collar. He could have been killed, but wasn’t thanks to these officers. Some people who had come to visit me accidently left a door open and Rex scooted out.
“So thank you very much,” she said.
Stephens then provided updates on the department’s upcoming Citizens Public Safety Academy and first aid classes (see separate story).
Later, an update was provided on crime in the area between Lunt and Touhy avenues and the recreation center on Barry Street for the month of June, the last full month since the last meeting.
In June, there were: 30 premises checked due to a safety call compared with 73 in May; two domestic violence calls (no charges filed), with one in May; two suspicious person calls, with no arrests, compared with four in May; 10 noise complaints compared with nine in May; no juvenile disturbance complaints in June or May; two illegally parked car reports in June, five in May; one well-being check in June and in May each and seven ambulance calls in June compared with three in May.
There were no gang or drug incidents reported, said police, and when asked if people had seen any such activity, they all say no.
Stephens also updated the group on the rash of July 22-24 car burglaries and the capture of two suspects Tuesday, July 26 by Rosemont officers. The suspects, police said, had burglarized more than 20 cars, many of them unlocked. Police said they were part of a ring from the south side of Chicago that would bring their bikes to the area and ride around selecting cars to hit. One suspect, police said, had a gun on him when he was captured.
“You folks are doing a great job,” says one longtime resident. “I remember years ago the police were always here and sometimes on top of the recreation center and apartment buildings.”
“I’ve been in public safety for many years in Rosemont,” Stephens responds. “I remember how bad it used to be in this area with crime and drugs. One time I was in the neighborhood out of uniform wearing a Cubs jersey and a guy even came up to me to try to sell me some pot. That was about 10 years ago.”
“So did you arrest him?” a resident asks.
“Yes, yes I did,” Stephens responds.
“It’s a different time now,” he continues. “We do things differently and this meeting is an illustration of just one of the ways we are working with the community directly to enhance safety. We don’t get gangs coming from other communities into Rosemont any more.
“It takes the community and police to work together and that’s what we’ve been doing,” Stephens continues. “Working on building relationships. We want to get to know you and we want you to know us, to trust us to know that we have your back. We have a good relationship with our residents and businesses. If you don’t have that relationship you don’t have anything.”
When one resident asks about police and community tensions rising around the U.S. and how that affects Rosemont, Stephens offers some thoughts:
“So far 69 (as of July 28) police officers have been killed while at work this year. That’s horrible.
“When it comes to many police stories about police shootings and interactions, the news doesn’t show the whole story. What you see on TV and what they show, the two to three seconds of an interaction with a cop, is just part of the story. Many of those protestors that go to cities are paid to cause trouble. Violence solves nothing. Our officers go through thorough training to respect and treat everyone with respect. We find that the interaction, that first impression, with people no matter how small or big the infraction, is important.”
The chief says in the past few weeks, Rosemont officers have received several thank you letters and emails from residents, businesses and convention goers.
“For instance, we received several from those that worked and attended the recent Pampered Chef convention. We have many of their letters up on our Facebook page. This means a lot to every one of us.”