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Edgewater Violence Worries Alderman, Residents as Temperatures Climb

By Benjamin Woodard | March 26, 2014 8:36am
 A police officer patrols last week in the 1100 block of North Thorndale Avenue.
A police officer patrols last week in the 1100 block of North Thorndale Avenue.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

EDGEWATER — Following a long, cold and snowy winter, Edgewater residents and Ald. Harry Osterman said they're bracing for a possible uptick in violent crime as the weather warms.

"I think everyone’s concerned about pent-up hostility," Osterman said in a phone interview Tuesday.

The three-year alderman of the 48th Ward said he has met with parents of children at Swift Elementary School after two recent shootings near Thorndale Avenue to help ease concerns.

He said he's also continued to host "block-by-block" meetings with residents that have created valuable partnerships between neighborhood people and their police force.

"It’s a chance for neighbors to get to talk to each other about what they want to see" the police address, he said, adding that the meetings "strengthen the bond neighbor to neighbor" to make Edgewater "safer for everybody."

Despite the efforts — and the cold — violent crime has persisted this winter in Edgewater.

As temperatures still hovered around freezing, a 23-year-old man was shot in the side about 7:40 a.m. March 12 in the 5800 block of North Kenmore Avenue after "having a conversation" with a person in a car, according to police.

Osterman said after learning that the incident might have been related to a drug deal, he met with the owner of the building where the victim lived on the block to "make sure building is safe" for all tenants.

The shooting shocked residents living on the residential street, including a father who was filming his 2-year-daughter looking out their third-floor window when shots rang out below. The toddler's reaction — "What was that? What was that?" — to the distinct sounds of gunshots was captured in the recording.

Then, less than a week later and just around the block, seven suspects were arrested trying to flee on the Red Line after a shooting that left bullet holes in cars parked along Thorndale Avenue, according to Osterman.

In all, five juveniles and two adults were arrested and charged "with various crimes, including unlawful use of a weapon," the alderman said.

Osterman said the swift action from residents, who called 911, and nearby police led to the arrests and the finding of the weapon used in the shooting.

"My office is going to follow through to make sure these guys are prosecuted on that," he said of the "gang-related" shooting.

About the same time as the shootings, Cmdr. James Jones, who oversaw the Foster Police District, which includes most of Edgewater, was reassigned to command the Grand Crossing District on the South Side.

Acting Cmdr. Kevin Duffin, a 30-year-veteran of the Chicago Police Department and former lieutenant in the Area Central Detective Division, replaced Jones.

Osterman said Duffin, who oversaw the "complex" murder investigations of Hadiya Pendleton and 6-month-old Jonyla Watkins, was more than capable of reducing crime in the neighborhood.

Residents, however, still worry that warmer weather would bring more violence as people spend more time outdoors.

"I was alarmed by the shootings — They’re very willing to put bystanders in harm's way," said resident Ashley Furrow of the recent gunplay. "It feels like it would be too easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

The 37-year-old, who moved into an Edgewater condo this year with her husband and 18-month-old child, said she was "alarmed" to hear about the recent violence, including a December shooting outside of the popular Lickity Split Custard Shop.

But, she said, "I’m hopeful."

"I feel like the neighborhood is hopefully moving in a better direction."

"Block-by-Block Safety Meetings": Residents living between Hollywood and Catalpa avenues, east of North Broadway, are invited to meet 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Edgewater Presbyterian Church, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., to discuss recent crime and how to curtail it. Residents living between Catalpa and Foster avenues, east of North Broadway, are invited to meet 4-6 p.m. at Epworth Church, 5253 N. Kenmore Ave.