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Grassroots Safety Event in West Town Brings Cop Brass, Standing Room Crowd

By Alisa Hauser | June 14, 2013 10:27am
 A grassroots safety meeting organized by local activist Anne Shaw and Greg Hernandez from the Chicago Democratic Alliance attracted around 60 residents of Ukrainian Village, East Village and West Town Tuesday.  The gathering included guest speakers Near West Police District Cmdr. Melissa Staples, detective Ron Rufo, and a 911 OEMC operator, all of whom answered questions from residents.
Grassroots Safety Meeting at Output Lounge
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WEST TOWN —  A grassroots safety meeting brought over 60 residents to a bar in West Town this week who were told that shootings in the area are up by seven in a year-to-year comparison.

Presented by local activist Anne Shaw, who rallied to save the now-closed 13th District police Station, and hosted by the Output Lounge, 1758 W. Grand Ave., the evening program included a police commander, a veteran 911 police dispatcher and a  Chicago Police crime prevention specialist, among others.

Near West Police District Cmdr. Melissa Staples told the group that she's been a resident of East Village for 14 years and has "the same concerns you do."

A 22-year police department veteran appointed to commander of the Near West district in December, Staples oversees a patrol force of 400 officers.

"We have more manpower in the 12th than any district. I'm very blessed," Staples said.

In West Town crime has been "dropping for years," according to Staples, but there are ongoing investigations into gangs such as the Satan Disciples and the area is "up 7 shootings" as compared to the same time last year. 

Staples said there were 1,000 auto thefts and 600 robberies last year in the portion of the district North of Grand Avenue.

"This area is big on burglaries. People want what you have," Staples said.

Staples — who stuck around for the near two-hour event and mingled with residents — urged people to attend their local police beat CAPS meetings and ended her remarks with "There's 127,000 residents in the district and I hope one day to meet all of you."

Ron Rufo, a crime prevention consultant for the Chicago Police Department who also provides a $50 home safety inspection service as a sideline, said burglaries occur most often between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Rufo recommended removing items like ladders and tools from yards which can help thieves access your home and putting up a "beware of dog" sign up — even if you don't have a dog.

Rufo said the number one deterrent to crime is having "a nosy neighbor."

Police Dispatch supervisor Kathi Karpiel, in response to a question from a resident about average 911 response times, said "there is no average response" but urged callers to "know where they're calling from."

"You can't just call and tell us you're at a McDonald's. There's a lot of McDonald's. You need to be more specific," Karpiel said.

The city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications had five million calls last year and interpreters are available for 186 languages, Karpiel said.

After the meeting, Katie Buzenius, 27, who just purchased a home in Ukrainian Village,  said she was planning to "relay a lot of stuff to her boyfriend" and thought Rufo's tips were "very helpful."

American Idol contestant Josh Jada Wilson dropped by Output Lounge around 10:30 p.m.