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Alderman: Crime on North Side Worst Since '70s

By  Benjamin Woodard and Adeshina Emmanuel | December 16, 2012 1:11pm 

UPTOWN — A North Side alderman said violence in his ward has been the worst since the 1970s when he — as a student — witnessed "race riots at Senn High School."

Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) met with constituents at Goudy Elementary School last week to introduce newly appointed Lincoln Police District Cmdr. James Jones and to discuss three shootings in the past two weeks.

"In 2012, the violence in our community has been totally unacceptable," he said to more than 50 residents sitting in the auditorium of Goudy, 5120 N. Winthrop Ave.

The problem is gang violence and the "community is stuck in the middle of it," he said.

Two shootings occurred within two hours of each other on Nov. 30 in the 5000 block of Winthrop Ave. One of the victims, Aswell Selmon, 46, was killed in the incident.

Authorities said Selmon was standing on the sidewalk about 9:30 p.m. when two males walked up and started shooting toward him and two other men. Selmon was standing outside his building, operated by Mercy Housing, when he was shot.

Cindy Holler, president of Mercy Housing, said at the meeting she reviewed surveillance footage of the incident.

"I have never been more angry the other night than when I saw drug dealers standing outside of our building," she said. Selmon was walking out of the building when he was caught in the crossfire, she said.

The third incident, which occurred at 1:46 a.m. on Dec. 1 outside Caffe Sunset at 5726 N. Western Ave., was due to a personal disagreement between an employee an unruly customer who was asked to leave, said Deputy Chief John Escalante, who oversees the operations of nine North Side districts and also spoke at the meeting.

The shootings came exactly one month after another gang-related shooting about two blocks east   — across the street from  Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave.  —  that left a 37-year-old man dead and injured another man, 21.

Earlier this month, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy shuffled his command staff to stem a spike in shootings. Cmdr. Jones, a former captain on the south side, replaced former Cmdr. Lucy Moy, who is now overseeing a reorganization of the city's community policing strategy.

During a question-and-answer session, residents wanted to know what the police were doing to stem the violence.

"[My son] should be able to walk home from this school to the next block without seeing drug deals," said Tony Sandifer, 44, whose son attends Goudy.

Osterman said the Rogers Park and Lincoln police districts are now the first districts in the city to have access to a vast collection of personal and public security cameras in real time. And he hopes new lighting and an increased police presence will also help, along with more social programs for neighborhood youth.

The Lincoln district will get six new officers next year, Escalante said.