Local Opinion

Does Anyone Care About The 19th District?

By Mike Fourcher | Monday, October 31, 2011

Police from the 19th District make a stop on the corner of Ashland Ave. and Irving Park Rd. Credit: Mike Fourcher

At last week’s first 47th Ward Council meeting, thirty-five concerned neighbors sat in the basement of the Ravenswood United Church of Christ, ready to discuss pressing community concerns with Ald. Ameya Pawar. For forty-five minutes Pawar discussed meeting logistics, answered questions about pedestrian safety and TIF spending, and then he asked if anyone had any other questions.

The room was silent, so Pawar put it to a finer point. “Any questions about the 19th Police District?”

Again silence, until a voice piped up, “Why don’t you tell us about it?”

This response, from some of our community’s most concerned, most active citizens, seems to be emblematic of how much we care about our police protection.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to merge the 19th District police station with the 23rd District to the east is the one of the biggest changes in our area – ever. And yet the community response has been just about bupkis.

Not everyone has been quiet. The Northcenter Neighborhood Association sent a tersely worded letter to Mayor Emanuel. And other neighborhood groups have expressed uneasiness.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), whose ward includes the south end of 19th District has been vocally upset, but he’s got two police districts closing in his ward. Residents in Ukrainian Village, which he represents, are losing the 13th Police District station. They have been demonstrating and petitioning.

But Ald. Pawar, whose ward is almost entirely covered by the 19th Police district, seems downright okay with the change.

“We’ve been reassured that merging districts is going to put more officers on the beat,” Pawar told Center Square Journal two weeks ago. “So that’s a good thing.”

Last week, The Chicago News Cooperative released an analysis of Chicago Police manpower allocations. They found that the 19th District, with 217 assigned officers, had 230 violent crimes in the first eight months of 2011. The 23rd District, with 191 assigned officers, had 311 violent crimes during the same time period.

Aldermen briefed by Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy say the department plans to realign police coverage in the old 23rd and 19th Districts according to crime levels. Knowing what we know about current crime levels, where do you think most the police officers are going to be assigned?

It won’t be Lincoln Square or Roscoe Village, that’s for sure.

As someone who spent close to fifteen years working in politics, I learned two lessons that can be applied here: “You don’t get anything without asking.” And, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

Privately, local leaders have told me that they think the Chicago police force need to be realigned. There are lots of neighborhoods worse off than ours, so we can afford to give up a few officers on the beat. On top of that, Mayor Emanuel lives in the soon-to-be-eliminated 19th District. He wouldn’t let his home area get too bad, right?

Let’s address Mayor Emanuel’s interests first: Unlike previous mayors who stuck to their home neighborhood through thick and thin, Emanuel has made it clear many times he wants to be mayor of the whole city, not just where he grew up. Oh and yeah, he didn’t grow up in Ravenswood. It’s just a place he lives now. So how much loyalty do you think he has to the 19th District? Not much.

On the idea of supporting good distribution of police, let me ask you this: What happens when things go bad? Like a property crime wave? Or a pair of murders? Or if gang violence from Albany Park begins to spill east over the River? If we don’t lodge our complaints now, we’re going to have a hard time making an argument when we really need someone to pay attention.

Folks, we ain’t asking and we ain’t squeaking. And while it’s nice to think that we’ll be taken care of when we need it, maybe we should be making a bit more noise now so that City Hall will pay attention later on. Think of it as an insurance policy.

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  • Anonymous

    This is a great start to an important discussion on policing and public safety here in the 47th Ward and Ravenswood as a whole.
    Ravenswood Community Council invites everyone to share in a discussion regarding this merge with Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Alderman Pawar at the Sulzer Library on Monday, November 7 from 6-8pm.  Residents and businesses are invited to share their concerns, questions and hear feedback.  Thanks for bringing up this important subject and lets start talking about it.

  • Anonymous

    Commander Kenny and Commander Boehmer will also be present.

  • Anonymous

    1.  It’s just a building.
    2.  That’s still going to be (at least somewhat) used, just not as a police “district office”.
    3.  bc of #2, there will be a reduction in administrative/desk positions.
    The approximate center of the combined 19+23 district is Ashland/Addison.  That’s *also* actually closer to the center of the 19th alone than the current location.  Will there be some shift change issues with the location of the new station, especially on Cubs game days?  Probably. 
    Does the combining of the districts–on its own–mean there will be fewer cops on the street?  NO.  Would *maintaining* the 2 districts *guarantee* that there wouldn’t be a reduction in cops on the street in both the 19th and the 23d?  NO. 

    Now, making a stink about making sure we have sufficient police presence everywhere in the new 19+23, sure, that’s local politics.  But defending two buildings, and an artificial boundary between the districts?  Why?

  • https://profiles.google.com/100265985342099105321 Kevin Anderson

    I’d like to know how keeping the station at Belmont & Western will help combat the threats described above, because I’m not seeing it.  It’s the officers on the street that matter, not where they punch in.

    • Anonymous

      Kevin, the point I’m trying to make is not about the building, it is about expressing community concern now, so that the police and City Hall will remember that we care about our police protection. Politics is about pressure. If you aren’t applying it, you don’t get what you want. Our community is not applying pressure so we’re almost guaranteeing that we’ll get less than we want.

  • Anonymous

    Discussion and asking questions is vital to being represented by your government and city services properly.  Going to the Nov 7 meeting will provide you an opportunity to hear from Police Superintendent McCarthy exactly what the intentions of the merge represent and discuss solutions to possible outcomes.

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