Thursday, April 29, 2010

Coverage of Community Safety Meeting by Nandika Doobay

Bucktown residents met with 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack and District 14 police Thursday morning at Club Lucky to discuss safety concerns following the vicious beating and robbery of two young women. The attack, which occurred early in the morning of April 23 under a viaduct on the 1800 block of N. Damen, left the victims Natasha McShane and Stacy Jurich hospitalized and the neighborhood on high alert.

Police presence in the Bucktown/Wicker Park area was noticeably increased in the days following the attack, with officers handing out community alert fliers, interviewing business owners and even giving courtesy rides to people walking late at night, who they felt might make easy targets. Streets and Sanitation pitched in as well, by searching garbage bins for possible discarded items pertaining to the case.

By the beginning of the week, two suspects were detained and Alderman Waguespack started the meeting by commending all the police work that went into getting the arrests made. "We have some of the best police officers at work in our area," said Waguespack, before introducing new appointed District 14 Commander Flores.

The Commander explained a bit more about what officers did in order to apprehend the suspects and assured that she intends to beef up patrols in order to prevent future crimes, but reminded everyone that they must also be vigilant. "That person with their headphones on, not paying attention...that's our next victim." She did say though, that the two women who were attacked did nothing wrong, but unfortunate things like these may be prevented.

Paula Barrington, of the Wicker Park Chamber of Commerce, encouraged business owners to install cameras to monitor their buildings and the sidewalks outside, before handing the floor back over to the Alderman. The large crowd at Club Lucky, brimming with questions, mostly about the safety of the Bloomingdale Trail and its viaducts, now had their chance to grill Alderman Waguespack.

Greg Viti, a local real estate agent, asked about adding lights to the viaducts, adding to the huge pile of complaints residents have for Canadian Pacific, the owner of the defunct rail line. Another meeting attendee asked the Alderman how come the city has not sought legal action against Canadian Pacific for their lax care of the property, with its peeling paint, cracked infrastructure and nonexistent security. Proposed as "Chicago's next great park" by nonprofit grassroots organization Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, the elevated tracks which run from the west side to the Chicago River currently poses safety risks to residents. "We are working with Canadian Pacific to take over the Bloomingdale Trail," said Waguespack, which resulted in groans from quite a few attendees who have heard this all before.

Other residents sought answers from the police department on whether or not it is undermanned or spread too thin in Bucktown, where affluence, high property taxes, bars and trendy stores may gain it the wrong kind of notoriety. Alderman Waguespack answered, "If you want your property tax dollars spent in Bucktown, you need to write the mayor."

-article and photos by Nandika Doobay for The Pipeline

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