PORTAGE PARK — The Jefferson Park Police District is the safest in city, and Cmdr. Roger Bay said he intends to make sure it stays that way on his watch.
Bay, a Dunning resident, took over the district that includes most of the Far Northwest Side a month ago, after he was promoted from the No. 2 job in the Harrison District on Chicago's West Side.
As part of the kickoff of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's anti-violence Summer of Faith and Action initiative, Bay on Friday held a public roll call of his officers at Portage Park, which has been plagued in the past with gang problems.
"Together we will make sure it keeps changing for the better," Bay said, before walking around the park with several officers and a group of residents, some pushing babies in strollers accompanied by their dogs on leashes.
The biggest change from the West Side is working in the same district as many of his relatives and friends, Bay said.
"It is more personal here," Bay said. "When something happens, they come straight to me."
Bay said he was confident that his philosophy of directing officers under his command to work with residents and businesses to address the root causes of crime and violence would be just as successful in Jefferson Park as it was in West Garfield Park, one of the city's most violent neighborhoods.
Bay, who joined the Chicago Police Department in 1986, praised former Jefferson Park Police District Cmdr. James O'Donnell, who took over the Chicago Lawn Police District, and said he would continue to fight the influx of gang activity that has alarmed Portage Park residents.
Addressing the officers, he urged them to get out of their cars and talk with residents to combat crime — while acknowledging he had not yet met all of them.
Bay urged the residents who attended the roll call to use the park frequently and not to let fear of crime keep them indoors.
"This park belongs to us," Bay said to the crowd. "And together, we'll make sure it keeps changing for the better."