Two Oak Lawn trustees are rolling out a pilot “Neighborhood Watch” program with the hope of eventually launching it village-wide.
Trustees Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2) and Terry Vorderer (Dist. 4) are recruiting residents to help out in the 40th precinct, which includes the Advocate Christ Medical Center campus, as well as many commercial and medical businesses on Cicero Avenue and Southwest Highway.
The two announced their program at the Feb. 25 village board meeting, according to the trustees’ media advisory.
Olejniczak explained that the neighborhood watch idea was something that he and former Trustee Tom Phelan were researching 2012, when both trustees held board liaison positions to the police and fire departments, respectively. After being replaced in those positions, and upon former Police Chief Bill Villanova’s retirement, the idea was put on the back burner until after the 2013 election and a new police chief was hired.
“When Trustee Vorderer was elected (in 2013), I thought it was an excellent time to revive the idea,” Olejniczak said. “And now that Trustee Vorderer is the police liaison and I’m the fire liaison, I think it’s a great time to roll this out.”
Vorderer beings more than 30 years’ experience as a police officer in Oak Lawn, where he retired as the division chief of patrol. Vorderer spent decades patrolling Oak Lawn’s streets and knows the village well.
“All of us are concerned about crime and the quality of our neighborhoods,” Vorderer said. “In these times of tight budgets and dwindling state and federal support, Alex and I are hopeful that residents will step-up to help keep our neighborhoods safe and beautiful.”
The trustees mailed invitation letters to two homes on each block asking those residents to act as Neighborhood Watch “block reps,” or in the case of those who can’t, to recommend other neighbors for the volunteer position.
Vorderer said there was no reason that the program couldn’t eventually rolled out district-wide and eventually village wide.
“Each precinct and district is somewhat unique,” Vorderer added. “Some have more commercial and retail businesses than others, some more apartments and condos than others. So there will be some amount of customization unique to each precinct and to each district, at least as it relates to Trustee Olejniczak’s district and my district.”
The first Oak Lawn Neighborhood Watch is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. March 20, at the Oak Lawn Park District Administration Center, 9400 S. Kenton Drive. Any Oak Lawn resident with an interest in keeping the village safe and great place to raise a family is invited to attend.
Most FAQ About the Neighborhood Watch Program (prepared by Tr. Olejniczak and Tr. Vorderer):Q: Will volunteers to “spy” on their neighbors and report them?
A: NO!!! The goal is NOT to recruit a group of nosy people who spy on their neighbors and report them to the Village. Instead, we are looking for people who watch out for their neighbors, notify the Village of any problems on their block, and report any suspicious person or activity to the police department.
Q: How did you pick the two homes on each block to invite to be “block reps”?
A: We looked for people who have lived in their homes for a long time and/or who are active voters, figuring people like this have shown a real interest in and commitment to our village. In most cases we tried to identify a home on each side of the street.
Q: Will the block rep role require a large time commitment?
A: No, we don’t think so. The PRIMARY ROLE of the block reps is to act as another set of eyes and ears for the Village so we can keep our blocks safe and beautiful.
Q: Will block reps need to do patrols on their blocks?
A: No, but we do hope that block reps will frequently travel down their blocks, either on foot or in a vehicle. People who walk/jog for exercise and/or who walk their pets are also ideal candidates.
Q: What are the block reps' responsibilities?
A: In addition to keeping a more watchful eye on their blocks, and meeting or communicating with their trustee in non-emergencies and the police or fire departments in emergencies, block reps may be asked to pass out flyers on their blocks, help residents sign-up for Everbridge Alerts, and promote events like “National Night Out” and “Crime Stoppers” to their neighbors.
Q: If someone is interested in volunteering for the Neighborhood Watch program, what should they do?
A: After the initial roll-out and invitations are mailed, we will host Neighborhood Watch meetings where residents can sign-up to be part of the program. If they have questions in the mean-time they should contact their trustee: Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 708-774-7355; or Terry Vorderer (Dist. 4) at email@example.com or 708-380-3108.