ROGERS PARK — Police and community leaders from both the Evanston and Rogers Park side of Howard Street united Thursday evening to cut the ribbon at a new Evanston Police outpost they say will help revitalize the area.
The post at 745 W. Howard St. (in the 2000 block of West Howard in Chicago) will serve as a reminder of a "pronounced police presence" between the two cities, whose law enforcement agencies already work together daily, Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said.
"Howard Street will be one of the best streets in Evanston and Chicago, just give us some time," Tisdahl said Thursday evening.
The outpost will serve as a place for residents to interact with police, as well as a way for police to make their presence known in the community, she said.
It stands in a struggling stretch of Howard Street that's been the site of several shootings over the years, including three men who were shot on Oct. 13, and just around the corner from where another man was shot Oct. 21.
Last week, Chicago and Evanston police forces united for a public roll call in the parking lot of Howard Food Mart, which some neighborhood groups have called a "gang clubhouse."
Both Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington and Chicago Police Chief Mike Ryan thanked community groups Brummel Park Neighbors and Network2424 for their organization and support and agreed the post will "benefit both sides" when it comes to curbing crime.
"We're going to make Howard Street a vibrant, rewarding place to be," Eddington said.
But Ralph Edwards, a CeaseFire worker and community activist said he's worried the new outpost could increase racial tensions in the area rather than improve them. He was one of three men shot Oct. 13, and he was wounded in another shooting over Labor Day weekend on the block.
He said he's concerned there may be an uptick in strict policing, moving people of color off sidewalks, and pushing them away from Howard Street instead of building a stronger partnership with the community.
"This is another form of controlling the neighborhood, still with no groundbreaking ideas on how to bring or fit the community in their agenda without passing judgment," Edwards said.
Edwards said he's glad storefronts are being developed along Howard Street, but wishes the police space had been used for something communal that all residents could enjoy.
The mini-station was formerly at 633 W. Howard St. on the Evanston side before the property was snagged for redevelopment.
Its current spot is near where EPD had its original outpost over 20 years ago, Evanston Alderman Ann Rainey said.
Officials also said wheels are in motion to bring the Strawdog Theater Company to occupy neighboring spaces at 717-23 W. Howard St. The theater has been on North Broadway in Lakeview for the past 28 years, but after their property too was set for redevelopment, Rainey said they've been in talks to move onto Howard Street.
Rainey said Strawdog helped transform the area around its 3829 North Broadway digs over the years and believes the same can be done on Howard Street.
"This outpost is a visible symbol of our commitment to Howard Street and to making it the safest, greatest street in the City of Evanston ... and that town on the other side over there ...," Tisdahl said jokingly.
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