Questions for discussion with West District Police
Summer is upon us which usually means an uptick in criminal and violent activity. SWMCO, as a liaison between the police and the community, would like more information and to initiate some discussion. We see some promising new programs, like Focused Deterrence, but we would like to know more. We also welcome the new chief’s emphasis on community policing and improved relations between the police and the community.
1. What are the goals for policing in the key neighborhoods of Theresa/Hammersley; Balsam/Russett and Park Ridge/Park Edge as well as the Raymond Road area?
2. What strategies will you be using?
3. What have you learned from last year?
4. How can the neighborhoods be enlisted in the effort? Would you see having an advisory committee as helpful?
1. What strategies are you using in regard to this problem?
2. There seems to be a lot of fear and concern. Is there any way to communicate progress without compromising the investigation?
3. Is there a way to educate homeowners and assuage their fears?
4. Is there a way SWMCO and the associations can help?
5. Is there a benefit for, and is it worth contemplating, a larger neighborhood meeting?
Summary of the Meeting
Several of us from SWMCO — Matt Phair, Gloria Meyer, Krista Ralston, and Larry Winkler (other members of the neighborhoods were unavailable) — met for two hours with Captain Vic Wahl, Lieutenant Tom Woodmansee, and Lieutenant Mike Hanson to discuss policing, crime and safety issues in the neighborhoods, the positive influences in the neighborhoods, how they can be enhanced, and how SWMCO can help with this. Crime is actually down this year (knock on wood) with the recent rash of burglaries (one victim being Alder Phair — twice) being the sore point. Police relationship with the communities have improved from last year and are likely helping gather information about these burglaries — they have information they are working with and are continuing to investigate. Burglaries are always tough to close, especially when there are no witnesses and even harder when the items taken have little monetary value and are not traceable.
Responding to these burglaries, the police have knocked on doors to inform residents of the incidents and to help them with prevention measures, including encouraging Neighborhood Watch. It might take only one alert individual to help break the case.
The negative incidents the police respond to almost exclusively are in the quality of life areas, which are nuisance rather than criminal behavior. The police in many cases want to refer some individuals to get help with conflict resolution, some drug and alcohol abuse problems, and mental health problems. However, cutbacks to organizations and agencies (and policy changes within agencies) means there are less feet-on-the-ground to deal directly with the people having these issues. There are no particular persons or housing areas that have these problems. Russett and Balsam areas are more problematic at this time.
There was general agreement that putting together an advisory committee of people in the neighborhoods is a good idea. This needs to be part of the critical focus of SWMCO and encouraging additional participation of people in the SWMCO Action Committee which is down significantly. Increasing the vitality of the Action Committee must be a prime goal if SWMCO is to become effective in fulfilling its goal of community organizing.
We also discussed the viability and advisability of holding a neighborhood area wide meeting with the police. The MPD was concerned as such meetings have devolved into “bitch” sessions generating much heat and little light, and would not have positive results. We agreed with that assessment.
Instead, we suggested we hold a number of small meetings, expecting 50 or 60 people, where the neighbors can share information and discuss issues, and where police representative can be present to clarify issues and elaborate. This would be organized by SWMCO and other neighborhood organizations, not by the police.
So SWMCO’s next steps are 1) to work to create an advisory committee, 2) to work to hold multiple neighborhood sessions for between 50 and 60 people, with help from existing neighborhood associations as appropriate, 3) to continue discussions to maintain a productive relationship between MPD and residents.
All in all, we felt the meeting with MPD was informative and productive and leaving us with direction and next steps.