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Lakeview still on edge at CAPS meeting
News update posted Aug. 5, 2011
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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With nerves still raw in Lakeview over a perceived increase in violence and Northalsted Market Days just around the corner, an estimated 80 people turned out to the neighborhood's CAPS ( Community Alternative Policing Strategy ) meeting Aug 3.

A standoff between residents and youth advocates over tactics to make the community safer continued. But the attention was on 44th Ward Alderman, Tom Tunney, who was the most vocal he has been on the issues since they erupted in mid June.

"We want to make sure that from the top down, our issues are addressed here," Tunney said. "This is not a simple solution in terms of respecting everybody."

Tunney said that his request for a entertainment late night police detail had been made final and that he had met with 19th Dist. Police Commander John Kenny to discuss resident concerns. The alderman also announced that his office was testing out new parking restrictions.

Tunney wants to extend parking meter enforcement until midnight on Halsted between Belmont Ave. and Buckingham Pl.

"Meters should be enforced at times when businesses are most busy," he said, adding that increased turnover of parking would help local businesses. Tunney is also testing out a parking ban on parts of main thoroughfares in Lakeview between midnight and 5:00 a.m.

One attendee questioned how parking restrictions were related to crime and safety.

Another man piped up to say that his building, Plaza 32, located 3232 N. Halsted, had requested the restrictions because parked cars sometimes attracted noise issues.

"People park their cars below… and use it as a home base to party," he said.

Overall, police said, crime rates are dropping, especially since police have amped up their presence in the neighborhood over the past few weeks.

Those reports seemed to dissatisfy some residents who have expressed that such statements marginalize their concerns.

One man said that he was the victim of an anti-gay hate crime in the spring and that the police had failed to follow-up with him. In a voice still raspy from a tube in his throat and a brace on his nose from a recent related surgery, he reported that a man had screamed "faggot" while beating him.

"I'm glad this is being addressed now," he said. "But this happened back in April."

Officer Jose Rios, the 23rd Dist. LGBT liaison, fielded most of the heat, which came from both sides of what has become a racially charged debate.

Many young people and service providers have accused residents concerned about crime with targeting racial minorities, some of whom travel to Lakeview for LGBT social services.

The Aug. 3 meeting was the second CAPS meeting for beats 2324 and 2331 to draw crowds since a string of well-publicized violent incidents this summer galvanized the community's residents to call for action from police and local government.

More than 700 people attended a July 6 meeting. That meeting quickly unraveled into a screaming match between residents who said their safety not being prioritized and youth who claimed their tactics were unjustly aimed at ridding the neighborhood of young people.

The Aug. 4 meeting echoed those same sentiments, but more than a month into the debate, those arguments seemed to have grown weary.

Rios announced that two youth will be chosen to serve as liaisons to 23rd Dist. Commander Kathy Boehmer. They will also sit on the 23rd District Advisory Council, which convenes representatives from each beat in the district monthly.

"A lot of the problem is that we have adults speaking for the youth all the time," Rios said.

That announcement did not satisfy all in the room. One person asked the police what they were doing to ensure they would not racially profile youth. Despite assurance from Rios that his team wanted to protect the youth, the conversation sparked a verbal showdown.

"This is a neighborhood, not a damn playground," said one man. "If youth are here, they need to be supervised by an adult."

At the end, one person questioned how increased police presence would stop crime at all. At first, some clapped. Then, the room exploded into shouts. Police, declining to answer, ended the meeting abruptly.

Residents signed up for "working groups" before leaving. Those groups will tackle issues related to social services, neighborhood safety call boxes, youth programs and peace walks.

Photos by Erica Demarest

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