By: Diane Turner-Hurns
Journal & Topics Reporter
Rosemont Public Safety Chief Donald Stephens III told an audience of 30 that “it’s a new day in ensuring residents’ quality of life and safety,” while unveiling several new community initiatives Thursday night, February 25 at the Rosemont Recreation Center, 7128 Barry Street.
With spring and summer just around the corner, the meeting was set up to gain feedback from the community on crime prevention and to develop a dialogue with officers.
In addition to announcing new beat patrolling initiatives, public safety officials asked and heard from those in attendance about traffic safety concerns for young students, drug activity, loud parties and more.
“This summer will be different,” Stephens told the welcoming crowd. “We want you to get to know us. We will have beat cops patrolling on bike, foot and on moped cycles. They want to get to know you and to help.
“We’ve also handed out a list of key phone numbers people should call if they see anything suspicious or want to alert us or have concerns. The important thing is to call us, don’t hesitate,” Stephen said. “Or, talk immediately to your beat cop. We are here for you and your families.”
Stephens was joined by several public safety officers, support staff and recreation center staff for the meeting that ran from 7 through 8:30 p.m. It was a friendly meeting with several questions coming from those in attendance. One resident thanked public safety for setting up the meeting and said she was disappointed that more residents did not show up.
“We are learning important information here tonight and I can’t believe more of my neighbors did not attend,” she said.
Recreation center officials said flyers had been distributed to all apartments and homes in the nearby area, which are sandwiched between Allstate Arena, Lunt Avenue and Touhy and include those on Chestnut and Lyndon Streets and Ann and Ethel courts. In addition, police went door-to-door to alert residents of the meeting. Communications were also printed in Spanish.
“We plan to have these meetings at least once a month to hear from you. So by next Wednesday, March 2, we will know when we’ll have the next meeting date to distribute to you to help get the word out,” Stephens said.
Stephens said the department has equipped squad cars with bike racks, purchased 12 new bikes along with special T-3 moped cycles for patrol use. He said the village is in the final phase of installing video cameras throughout the village to enhance safety and will soon outfit every Rosemont officer with body cameras.
“Every Rosemont squad car has a video camera inside,” Stephens said.
“Cameras are very important,” Public Safety Commander Greg Nazuka said at the meeting. “But we need your input. We want to build trust and for you to share your concerns and experiences with us directly as well.”
Just before the meeting the public safety officers played soccer with about 25 children in the indoor soccer field.
“We’re not just going to patrol the area, but we want to get to know you and your children. Some of us will be participating in a variety of activities here including playing soccer, volleyball, basketball and more,” Stephens said.
Stephens himself ended up playing basketball with a young athlete after the meeting. That boy, about 3 feet high, threw in about five straight baskets before handing the ball to the chief for his turn.
“We want to begin a two-way dialogue with the community,” Nazuka told the Journal. “To address the quality of life issues, it’s not just giving people a number to call or enforcement, but quality of life.”
Stephens outlined three main beats for the 12 officers assigned to the area, with plans to add more bike patrols as summer nears if needed.
One woman said she was concerned about school buses picking up and dropping off students on Touhy Avenue instead of the now cut-off Barry Street.
“It is very unsafe for the children and drivers drive badly on Touhy in the morning and afternoon. What can be done?” she asked.
“We will call the school first thing in the morning to find out about the drop off points and if and how they can be changed. At the same time, we will have a police car accompany the bus as it enters Rosemont and follow it throughout the village to make sure the students can get off and head home safely,” Stephens said. “That’s what we’ll do now and will work with the schools to see what else can be done to enhance student safety.”
One woman asked what can be done about loud parties and was told to call police at 847-323-1134, ext. 340 to make a report and ask for help.
“You can call us any time of the day or night to report crime or ask for help. You don’t have to leave your name, you can call anonymously and we will act immediately,” Stephens said. He said to always call 911 if there is an emergency.
Other concerns included drinking outdoors between buildings where there was little or no light, abandoned vehicles in the neighborhood, people not picking up after their dog, and the presense of drugs.
“We will make this stop,” Stephens said. “I promise. You have my word.”
One woman asked if she should contact police after learning from school officials that her child may be involved in drugs.
“Absolutely, we can help you,” Stephens said. “We can help you both.”
Rosemont officials said future community meetings would also be educational such as providing demonstrations on how to use a fire extinguisher, on home emergency planning and more “Hopefully in the future more people will come to the meetings. Let us know what else we can help with from a public safety standpoint and never hesitate to call us,” Stephens said. The public safety department also encompasses the fire department as all public safety officers are trained in policing and fire protection.
Following the meeting several residents stayed to talk with public safety officers while children played soccer and basketball in the rec center.