On Tuesday evening the Village of Forest Park hosted a community crime meeting
for residents south of Roosevelt and east of Circle. The Neighborhood Watch volunteers passed flyers to publicize the meeting. Forty-five chairs were set-up and the audience grew to require more chairs.
News you can use facts:
A. Friday Forest Park will have a DUI checkpoint. You’ve been warned. See Forest Park Review
B. If you want a large covered recycle bin the village is taking requests.
The justification for having the community crime meeting cover small neighborhoods rather than all of Forest Park was that different geographic areas have different crime patterns. In hindsight, just covering this one neighborhood filled the meeting room.
The village administrator and the code enforcement team attended the meeting along with the chief of police and five police officers. One group everyone seemed to agree to criticizing was owners of multi-unit buildings who fail to be responsible landlords.
The village is going to hire a former police officer now on disability who worked with landlords to help screen and evict problem tenants. The village will also push property owners to do little things to make it harder to conceal criminal activity: more lighting, better landscaping and removing excessive signs from windows. This is called “crime prevention through environmental design”.
The police department is going to create a three-officer tactical unit (“tac unit”). The tac unit will focus on specific locations or situations that present ongoing problems. Both Chief Jim Ryan and Deputy Chief Tom Aftanas made a point of saying Forest Park seeks “aggressive” policing.
Mayor Anthony Calderone and Bob Sullivan (Forest Park Review columnist) lamented the passing of everybody knowing their neighborhood days of the past.
The Forest Park police officers emphasized wanting residents to call the police. The guidelines are that if one wants a police officer to come to the seen now, use 911. Otherwise use the non-emergency number. If you want to report something anonymously, use the non-emergency number.
There was very little of the “blame the outsider” mentality reported from the first community crime meeting. See Forest Park Review (Seth Stern)
and the derisive comments I made in a FPR column
. This meeting was conducted much more professionally than the previous meeting was described.
When asked about gangs and non-resident crime, it seemed like the police gave a professional assessment. So gangs members and perpetrators come in from Berwyn or Maywood, but the officers seemed to integrate this into an understanding that this only part of the issue facing Forest Park.
However, I have a few criticisms.
It’s clear Calderone wants to control the information. Gloria Backman began setting up to video tape the meeting. He told her not to do it and to object to the State’s Attorney. He referred to CUFP
, Proviso Probe and probably ForestPark.com as an “underground network”.
What makes CUFP or Proviso Probe “underground”? Almost all CUFP meetings are open to the public. (I think there was one organizational meeting CUFP requested the press not attend.) Proviso Probe allows people to hide their identities, but otherwise is pretty out in the open.
It’s hard not to see these community crime meetings as part of Calderone’s reelection campaign. He spent more time speaking than any other speaker and generally fielded audience questions unless he directed them to someone else. However, I have to thank Calderone for this somewhat because he is a better speaker than Ryan or Aftanas.
It really bugged me that Ryan called Calderone “Tony” in a formal setting. Yo, Chief, that’s “Mayor Calderone” to you, if you’re in front of taxpayers.
I’m not a fan of the Forest Park PD making “aggressiveness” its highest virtue for cops. How about “judgment”? If Officer Ron Gross used better judgment with Ed Reformado, neither Gross nor Reformado would have been hit and the village would have avoided a lawsuit. If Sgt. Mike Murphy used better judgment with Sidney Hooks then Hooks wouldn’t have gotten his wrist broken and the village would have avoided a lawsuit.
Aftanas’ references to other patrol methods like foot patrol, motor cycles and bicycles seemed forced. It was like he was saying they’ve done enough of this in the past couple years to make my statements true, but these alternate patrol methods aren’t integrated into standard operating procedures.
Calderone also bragged about how he got after Ryan to send more patrol cars to southern Forest Park even though the crime is relatively low there. I wonder if Calderone will tell the residents of higher crime areas he’s diverting their patrol cars to the low crime areas because he thinks it’s fairer that way.
Also, Calderone micromanaging the beats for patrols seems to contradict his claims that he delegates decisions to Ryan. When the police department flip-flopped on firing Lt. Steve Johnsen, Calderone portrayed the decision as being Ryan’s. And Calderone claimed to have been uninvolved in the decision to fire Sgt. Dan Harder.
Of course, Calderone has so far refused to provide an answer to the question about what his responsibilities are vis-à-vis the police department