ALBANY PARK — Next time you report a suspicious individual to police, include a description of the person's shoes.
Offenders easily swap out shirts, caps and jackets, but are less inclined to change their footwear. That was just one of the crime-fighting tips presented by Alabany Park Police District officers at Monday's meeting of Albany Park Neighbors, hosted by the Modelo Club House Restaurant.
Sgt. Kristin Munin, who heads up the district's Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy office, encouraged residents to take an active role in rooting out crime.
"There's so many more of you than there are of us," she said. "A lot of you have better vantage points, and they're doing things in front of you they're not doing in front of us."
Tactical officers said that while gangs are gradually moving out of Albany Park, a number of factions can still be found in the neighborhood: Spanish Cobras, Spanish Gangster Disciples, Conservative Vice Lords, La Familia Stones and Latin Kings.
Graffiti patterns might indicate a shift in territory, which is why it's important for residents to document tagging, the officers said.
Most of the gangs run their drug-dealing operations via telephone, unlike open-air markets in other parts of the city, explained Officer Piotr Nestorowicz. Residents should be on the alert for the type of quick hand-to-hand transactions that take place between the buyer and seller, who typically travels by car, he said.
In contrast with their counterparts on the South and West sides, the majority of gang members in the Albany Park District tend to be 14- and 15-year-olds who rank fairly low on the totem pole.
"These guys pretty much crap their pants when we pull them over," said Nestorowicz.
When dialing 911 to report a questionable character or activity, Munin advised callers to mention any high-profile incidents that have occurred in the vicinity to ensure swifter action.
"Articulate why you're concerned," said the sergeant.
Though Police Supt. Garry McCarthy recently announced a number of new communications tools for CAPS — including Twitter feeds — Munin said one of the simplest yet most effective ways to combat crime is to get to know your neighbors.
"Criminals don't like neighborhoods where people talk to each other," she said.