Austin-Oak Park Justice Center back in business

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By Ben Meyerson and Terry Dean of the Austin Weekly News

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez is making good on a campaign promise by reopening the Community Justice Center, located in Oak Park on Chicago Avenue, just west of Austin Boulevard.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring Alvarez, Chicago police officers and officials from the Village of Oak Park took place Wednesday morning at the center, 4 West Chicago Ave. AustinTalks broke the news in May that the center would be reopening.

The office will be housed in an Oak Park Village-owned building, the same location of the earlier center. The state-based Community Prosecutions Program was shut down three years ago because of budget cuts.

With its new name, the Community Justice Center will have an on-site facilitator who’s expected to help community residents and individuals address such issues as drugs, theft and loitering around schools.

The office serves both the Oak Park and Austin communities, as well as residents on the Near West Side of Chicago and western suburbs. Two other justice centers have already opened on the North and South Sides.

Elected in 2008 as the city’s first Hispanic female state’s attorney, Alvarez made it a priority to reopen the offices. Oak Park’s grand opening marked the third of the offices to reopen under the new title of Community Justice Center.

The Oak Park office will be the first reopened in the suburbs – though with its proximity to Chicago just west of Austin Boulevard, it will serve the Chicago Police Department’s 15th District as well.

In addition to working with police departments, the Community Justice Center will also work closely with schools, businesses and residents on crime prevention. The office also will have a prosecutor from the state’s attorney’s mortgage fraud department.

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