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A Thousand Strong And Growing — What's Next For Taking Back Lakeview?

By Ariel Cheung | September 22, 2016 6:01am
 Founder of Taking Back Lakeview Elaine Osgood (left) chats with Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) ahead of a September CAPS meeting.
Founder of Taking Back Lakeview Elaine Osgood (left) chats with Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) ahead of a September CAPS meeting.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

LAKEVIEW — Elaine Osgood really didn't see this coming.

When the 32-year-old Lakeview resident decided to get her neighbors together in April to talk about crime, she little suspected to be fronting a neighborhood task force 1,400 members strong.

"It's definitely been an interesting roller coaster," Osgood said. "Seeing the involvement from neighbors — everyone is willing to help put some direction on how to help Chicago deter some of this crime and violence we're having."

As Taking Back Lakeview rounds the corner into its sixth month, the group is confronted with the simple fact that crime is complicated, and finding a way to stop it even more so.

"I think we've kind of realized this whole crime issue in Lakeview is bigger than us," she said. "It's a legal issue, it's a voting issue."

Still, Osgood said she is looking forward to forging ahead and thrilled with the progress the group has made so far.

Most recently, a show of force at a community policing meeting resulted in a daily presence of security an guard dogs at the Belmont "L" station. Osgood and other Take Backers distributed fliers and turned out in the dozens, quizzing Town Hall District leaders and the head of CTA security on procedure and potential improvements.

RELATED: Police, CTA Bring In The Dogs As Crime At Belmont 'L' Station Spikes

Attending the meeting was one of the first unified actions from Taking Back Lakeview, which largely operates as a closed Facebook group in which neighbors report suspicious activity and share safety tips.

But the group has been headstrong from the start, when the crowd grew so large its first meeting was moved from The Diag to the Athenaeum Theatre and split into two sessions — yet still more were turned away from the crammed room.

There they outlined a basic mission: To band together and become a community that takes action against a brutal spike in crime over the past year.

Lakeview is facing the steepest rise in major crime in at least 13 years, according to a DNAinfo analysis of police data. After decade-low numbers in 2015, burglaries have doubled while robberies are up 60 percent.

RELATED: Lakeview Crime Sees Steep Increase, But Is It Worse Than 10 Years Ago?

The group really has only one rule: get derogatory, start pointing fingers, and you get the boot. And on that, Osgood has stood firm.

With the Belmont "L" victory locked down, Osgood, who has lived in the neighborhood for eight years, said the group is turning its attention to the Nov. 8 election.

Alarmed by how quickly some defendants or convicts are released, the group is in favor of stricter penalties for gun crimes and violent offenders. So its hoping to work with BallotReady to determine where judges (including those up for re-election) stand on the issues and "bring awareness to this election so we can vote a little more educated," Osgood said.

"I think the officers are working as hard as they can, but this is above" the Chicago Police Department, Osgood said. "At the end of the day, guys are not getting locked up long enough, and I would assume it's frustrating for CPD as well, to lock up these guys knowing in a short time they could be back on the streets again."

In April, the group also discussed setting up neighborhood watch groups. On Facebook, some members have floated the idea of public protests to demonstrate their concern.

Osgood is open to the ideas, but she stressed an important aspect of the role Taking Back Lakeview serves.

"We lose focus when we start pointing fingers at the aldermen or CPD," she said. "To make this work, we all have to be on the same page. And although we might not agree, we have to support each other."

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