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Lakeview officials in hot seat over area crime
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

This article shared 5321 times since Thu Aug 8, 2013
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It's not the crime rates that Lakeview residents want addressed: it's the perception.

That's the message that a packed room at the District 19 police station had for District Commander Elias Voulgaris Aug. 8.

Residents say that recorded crime rates may not be on the rise, but that incidents hurting the quality of life in the neighborhood are.

More than 75 people filled the Community Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meeting Wednesday night. The crowd took Voulgaris to task for what residents say is an ongoing crime problem in the neighborhood, which encompasses Boystown, the city's official gay neighborhood.

Residents reported a seeming increase in graffiti and robberies, among other concerns.

Voulgaris countered that area crime rates are down from last year and offered statistics to that effect.

But residents said that it was perception of an uptick in incidents that led neighbors to feel unsafe. They offered their own statistics— official numbers that place Lakeview beats among the top crime areas.

Voulgaris acknowledged that residents were not satisfied, but said that comparing beats was counterproductive because Lakeview encompasses a heavily-populated entertainment district.

"I'll accept criticism, but I need constructive feedback," Voulgaris told the room.

Complaints about crime in Lakeview are hardly new. Concerns tend to spike every summer as crime rates rise with the temperature. Two years ago, the neighborhood was rocked by controversy after a string of high-profile violent crimes set residents on edge and stirred a debate over racial profiling in the neighborhood.

Those tensions live on as some feel that area service providers working primarily with LGBTQ youth attract trouble to the neighborhood.

Among organizations on the defense has been the The Night Ministry, which operates a small LGBTQ-friendly youth shelter called "The Crib."

Residents voiced concerns about the shelter at an Aug. 5 meeting with The Night Ministry and 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney. Some say that the shelter is disrupting the neighborhood, increasing the number of young people loitering outside of Lakeview Lutheran Church, where the program is held.

They also singled out Tunney for not taking a firm stand on The Crib. But Tunney said that he was committed to making changes.

"It's not a matter of how we do it, we're going to see improvements at The Crib," Tunney said.

Tedd Peso, government relations manager for The Night Ministry, said that the organization is taking resident concerns into consideration.

"We're making an effort to work proactively with the alderman's office, the police and the neighbors while working within a program model to create hope and change for young people who don't see a lot of it in their lives," Peso said.

He added that the organization would be meeting in the coming days to discuss a response to resident concerns.

Other topics at the meeting ranged from complaints about cyclists not following traffic rules to police handling of major events like concerts.

Largely, residents said they wanted to see more police walking Lakeview streets, and they pressed Voulgaris on how they could see that change through.

Voulgaris said he would accept responsibility for cutting down on crime, but added that residents needed to work at that too, putting away their iPhones when walking home and reporting crimes and graffiti.

Ald. James Cappleman also attended the meeting.

This article shared 5321 times since Thu Aug 8, 2013
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