Residents and police need to work together

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By Serethea Reid

Thursday night, members of Central Austin Neighborhood Association arrived at the monthly Chicago Police Board meeting a half hour early to claim what has always been available to us at previous meetings: the front row.

We were surprised to find that not only the front row, but the entire south section, was filled by people other than CANA members.

As the time progressed toward the 7:30 p.m. start time, the room continued to fill. We had seen even larger numbers before. That room had held as many as 300 attendees, but few, if any, would speak.

But there seemed to be a different buzz in the room this night. Each set of residents arriving seemed to know and connect with the others in attendance.

When the meeting started, we were prepared to employ the tactics through which CANA had gained so much response from the Chicago Police Department.

CANA members would read a prepared statement and pose a set of questions. All the other CANA members would stand in support while that person spoke. Our numbers reached 15, and we enjoyed the full attention of the Police Board.

Thursday night, one person from the Hyde Park/Kenwood/Oakland, the 4th Ward, read a statement, and 150 people stood up in support. That move set the whole Police Board Meeting off its usual structured course. Rules were jettisoned and a new trajectory was set.

People who had not signed up one day advance, as required by Police Board rules, were allowed to speak, ask questions and talk for longer than the stated limit of two minutes. They began to provide suggestions on conducting the meeting as a hearing for their concerns only.

Fortunately, CANA did have the opportunity to present. In summary, we shared the following concerns:

· Failure of the police to deal effectively deal with quality of life crimes has led to an increase in the number and severity of crimes being committed;

· Running gun battles are now being played out on our streets;

· Drug turf wars are taking place for the right to sell;

· Dead body found in alley;

· Requested information on how long the additional police will be on the street and how their effectiveness will be measure;

· Inquired about how they will measure the effectiveness of their new stated emphasis and tactics to address the quality of life crimes.

Immediately after our presentation, attention returned to the other group. The Oakland area has experienced eight murders since April. They were there to express their outrage at what they perceived as the failure of the police to demand immediate attention to the problems and identify all responsible parties.

They were there to report, in their view, an unprecedented increase in violence in an area that is unaccustomed to such activity and has been known for peace and quiet.

Their alderman, newly elected Will Burns, was there in support of their effort and concern. He made a detailed presentation of his work on the problems and his plans going forward.

The deputy chief of police for their area was in attendance as well as the police commanders for the areas. They stayed after the formal meeting concluded to meet with the members of that community.

Being first has benefits. Bringing the masses has power. The 4th Ward has set a new bar to capturing the attention of the Police Board.

4th Ward


There is no one solution to the problems in Austin. We have to work on all fronts, and we must increase our participation in finding the solutions.

Will you join us?

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