WEST TOWN — A tip from a sharp-eyed resident who witnessed a drug deal in the 1700 block of West Erie Street led to the recent arrest of two gang members charged with reckless conduct, police said.
The news was shared by Near West District Police Cmdr. Melissa Staples in a sparsely attended community police meeting last week.
"You guys are the eyes and ears of the community. We have to know when they're out there, flashing gang signs or riding bicycles on the sidewalk, whatever it is, anything you see that's disturbing the peace, call us," Staples said.
Steve, who asked that his last name not be used, was the resident who witnessed the drug deal and called 911.
While he wasn't present at the meeting, the resident, founder of the Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Watch Facebook page, which has more than 1300 members, later said he was on his way home from work when he noticed two men wearing black-and-red hoodies who were standing in front of a tree marked with gang symbols.
"I saw money and small packages ... They were white bags and could be anything from marijuana to something harder like cocaine," he said.
The drug deal the resident witnessed took place March 11 in the 1700 block of West Erie Street, police said. But the two suspects, ages 17 and 19, were arrested at 5:30 p.m. on Superior Street near Ashland Avenue because they had moved from their original location and the resident had been following them at a safe distance while on the phone with 911, police said.
Police said the two were "running in and out of traffic and flashing gang signs at passing vehicles."
The arrest was just one of 22 that were made in the areas of Erie and Ashland, Huron and Elizabeth streets, and Ohio Street and Marshfield Avenue, according to the latest police statistics in the West Town beat from Jan. 1 through March 13.
Beat 1215 is bounded by Chicago Avenue, Lake Street, Racine Street and Wood Street.
Through March 13, 81 arrests were made in the beat, according to police statistics. The top three reported crimes were theft (52 instances), battery (27) and criminal damage to property (21).
Staples and Sgt. Juan Clas urged residents to be safe and to stay clear of individuals when calling in suspicious activity.
"I appreciate anybody that has information that they can give to the police. My whole thing is safety," Clas said.
Clas added that putting oneself in harm's way is, "What we get paid for, not the citizens."