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Gangs, Crime Prevention Get Attention at Public Safety Meeting

The town hall meeting drew just three dozen attendees, another is planned for Thursday night.

Saying that local crime is “not just a government issue,” Mayor Dave Heilmann challenged village residents Tuesday evening to “step up” and “be more proactive” to make Oak Lawn a safer and better place.

He issued the challenge at a public safety town hall meeting at Kolmar Elementary School. About three dozen residents were in attendance in the school’s gym, with about twice as many empty folding chairs.

A similar town hall meeting in October at Hannum Elementary School attracted about 100 people. Some of those same people also filled the seats at Kolmar. A third meeting on public safety is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6 at Covington Elementary School.

Heilmann said he wanted people to be a part of a citizen-driven planning process that would guide village crime prevention efforts “…not for one, two or three years; but five and ten years ahead.”

The mayor offered few details about the process, but urged everyone at the meeting to sign up to be on a committee to help lead the effort. Some stepped forward at the end of the meeting and did so.

 “We (in Oak Lawn) live next to a mean, terrible city, or whatever people think of Chicago,” Heilmann added.  “We want to say we have developed a (crime prevention) model that works.”

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Heilmann was effusive in his praise of village police, saying they do “a phenomenal job.” His comments were echoed by Police Chief Bill Villanova, who talked about the importance of police and citizens working together and recapped several recent OLPD successes, including the Nov. 7 chase and arrest of a man accused of robbing several Radio Shacks at gunpoint.

Another main purpose of the meeting was to reacquaint residents with the village’s emergency notification system which was rolled out well over a year ago.

Kathleen Hansen, director of the village’s Emergency Communications Department, encouraged everyone to sign up for the alerts by visiting the village website and following the prompts. Parents may also sign up their children with cell phones to receive select alerts.

Several attendees asked specific questions about crime and other “quality of life” issues. One discussion topic was the possibility of gang crime spilling over to Oak Lawn from Burbank and Chicago Ridge.

Villanova explained that “internal frictions” between various Gangster Disciples factions in Chicago’s Ashburn neighborhood have affected surrounding areas. He acknowledged that there is gang activity in Oak Lawn, but the village does not “…have that open street market type of drug activity” found elsewhere.

Villanova theorized that some gangs may view Oak Lawn as a good, quiet place to keep safe houses; and he mentioned that two such houses were raided by federal drug agents, netting up to $4 million.

The chief also added that he wants children in the village given gang awareness and avoidance education a year earlier than they currently are.

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Oak Lawn Gal December 05, 2012 at 02:38 PM
I do agree that the residents can help by being "eyes" for the police and calling in anybody or anything that looks suspicious. But I'd like to start hearing some concrete ideas or suggestions from the mayor or the chief.
Involved December 05, 2012 at 03:28 PM
An extremely effective way for people to be involved in the protection of their community is the Neighborhood Watch Program. It is detailed and specific in instructing what everyone should do to minimize criminal activity. It is set up through thr police department. That being said, the reality is that very few people choose to get involved and expect their undermanned police departments to solve all of the community's crime problems with little citizen involvement..
Oak Lawn Gal December 05, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Involved...Do you just contact the OLPD to get info on Neighborhood Watch?
Dm December 05, 2012 at 05:05 PM
So the Mayor and Villanova and blaming Ashburn for the gang problems in Burbank and Chicago ridge? Chicago ridge and Burbank have had grand problems for over 20 years. It wasn't until The Patchthat we would read about the problems. The area with the gang trouble in Oak Zlawn are the areas that boarder Chicago ridge and Burbank. The area that boarders Evergreen Park and Mt. Greenwood you never read or hear about gang trouble.
James Manning December 05, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Some good ideas in theory , but I hope this isn't just " there is an election coming up next year I need some photo op's for my campaign literature " We will see
Pat F December 05, 2012 at 05:48 PM
I will say the police do show up in a short amount of time when you call but I also have a problem..How about not asking the dumb question,"do you want the officer to stop by your house?" You just called to report questionable illegal activities? All this does is let the criminals know who called if they stop by! I took the time to try and help prevent criminal activity..A call back would be nice so we know what went on, and whether to call about it in the future..
Jeremy D December 05, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Enormous problem and solution: in area school the gang members are constantly finding new and old ways to represent their gang affiliation - the problem is that there are rules at place in the school against that - but- teachers and administrators don't notice these blatant displays. If they notice they most frequently ignore. Perhaps the young people do not wear their sports hats on their heads often, but carry in the appropriate (right or left) hand according to their gang, or attached to pant loops at waist appropriately. Sometimes they are just "holding up" their sagging pants with a fist grabbed to either the right or the left. They gather in "their" spots often intimidating other at crowded hall intersections or restroom doors. Some would say that it is just too much of a hassle to address the problem and so it grows, some would say it isn't worth it to the adults since most don't address it and they are met with confrontations that are not death with by those who should enforce, or some would say that they are afraid to deal with angry parents when the student complains that he/she was unfairly disciplined for whatever reason. Most adults do not address this, or the language, or the handshakes, or the posturing. This needs to be taken seriously - it is the reason graffiti appears in the neighborhoods or that the young adults are so bold when they leave the school and go out into the community.
J December 05, 2012 at 11:34 PM
I have been working on a Neighborhood Watch for a couple of months and almost have District 3 up and running. Our 1st official meeting will be in January. Please email me if you would like to get involved. My name is Johna and the email is olneighborhoodwatch@gmail.com
tphelanPATCH December 06, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Why does the PATCH continue to slant even a community public safety meeting in a negative way? (pointing out low attendance in such a catty manner). It IS December, and evenings a full with holiday preperations and activities afterall. No need to be so snippy...oh wait....your in full force SANDY mode....nevermind....wonder if tphelan acutally types your "reports" too.
Involved December 06, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Whether it's 30 or 300 citizens showing up for a public safety meeting makes no difference as to the community's response to criminal activity in its neighborhoods. People need to be realistic about dealing with the problem by getting involved with Neighborhood Watch programs or at least taking enough responsibility to make the call when they see suspicious persons or criminal activity outside their windows. Crime ridden communities got that way because the residents chose not to get involved. The police cannot do it all without help from the citizenry.
OakLawn1966 December 06, 2012 at 10:13 PM
My, my, my, the mayor's people sure are thin-skinned when basic facts get reported. Perhaps they'd like to return to the bad old days in OL, when the only newspapers around were in the pockets of the local pols and essentially printed what the pols told them to.
OL1966isTommy December 07, 2012 at 01:50 PM
OakLawn1966....probably Tommy...types like Tommy....born in the Tommy year....yep I'd bet Tommy.
JustTheFacts December 08, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Fact #1....Andy can do whatever he pleases on "The Patch". Fact #2.....Andy thinks his options are messages from above and he likes to think everyone should follow his word as gospel. He does not have the ability to have a discussion as he throws a hissyfit whenever anyone expresses a different point of view Fact #3: With that mentality and the vehicle of "The Patch" is an unchecked destructive force. Final Fact. Thus given this scenerio the best way to neutralize "Andy" is to ignore him. Yes this will make him stomp his feet harder and throw a tantrum...but eventually he will take his toys and leave and the adults can have a real discussion. That's just the facts.....as I see them.
swimmer December 08, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Blaming Chicago does.t seem like much of,a plan. As someone pointed Out, the problems seem to be in the northwest area, farthest from the evil city.
OakLawn1966 December 08, 2012 at 08:03 PM
The fact that the mayor asked those in attendance to sign up for a planning process that appears to have little to no definition at this point tells me that he's thrashing around and taking eleventh hours cosmetic actions designed to prevent his political opponents from using crime in Oak Lawn as an issue. Nonetheless, I think all of us know that crime, or at least fear of crime, is a bigger-than-ever issue in the village.
Oak Lawn Gal December 08, 2012 at 08:21 PM
That was an interesting comment about more crime on the NW side. Most of the bank robberies seem to be on 95th and also along Cicero. There was an armed robbery on Kolin Ave in District 4. And then the Radio Shack robber was identified on 95th and caught off of Cicero. So I don't think the SE side of Oak Lawn is much safer. The gangs may be on the NE side because of the High School and the proximity to 294.
hybels4 December 09, 2012 at 06:27 PM
I do wonder why Phelan was in the parking lot with cash at St Cathrines in 2006 during sports night? Was this crime related?

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