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Three troubled neighborhoods in Evanston will receive intense attention from many City departments over the next several months, as the SNAP program kicks off. SNAP, the Safer Neighborhood Area Project, will take a “holistic” approach to these troubled areas, which have been drawing a “tremendous amount of City services,” police officer Tanya Noble told the RoundTable.
One of these areas is the 1900 block of Jackson Avenue, which has been plagued with “chronic disorder – crime, poverty, poor housing stock,” Officer Noble said.
“We look at the neighborhood and talk to the neighbors to find out what else has to be fixed. … It’s an approach to crime prevention through environmental design,” she added.
Referring to a popular neighborhood/police approach to crime, Commander Tom Guenther called this program “‘Broken Windows’ with teeth.”
Alderman Delores Holmes, in whose Fifth Ward the 1900 block of Jackson lies, said many City departments will be focused on the area: Health, Property Standards, Fire, Police, Public Works and Streets and Sanitation.
The police plan to increase patrols in the area, improve the lighting, clean up the alley and even make some changes in the nearby park, Cmdr. Guenther said.
The 1900 Jackson area has been plagued with criminal activities for decades and is now the scene of a sophisticated “open-air market” for illegal drugs. “It’s been an unfortunate gathering of gangs and drug associates for about 30 years, as I understand it,” said Officer Noble.
Cmdr. Guenther said, “We’ve put a lot of people [from that area] in jail over the years,” but added that police feel the neighborhood’s tolerance of the drug deals is one thing that allows them to continue. “We can arrest a drug dealer, but as long as the neighborhood tolerates this, there’ll be another one on the corner the next day,” said Cmdr. Guenther. He added that last month a person was shot in the Jackson Avenue area, but the victim would not cooperate with the police investigation, claiming he was alone when it happened – “even though we have other witnesses who said he was not alone.”
Officer Noble said she felt many people on the Jackson block have not been invested in the area, because much of the housing is rental and much of it is substandard. “There are roaches and rodents. People live there because they can’t live anywhere else. When you’re living in poverty, you’re living in poverty and you have no choices.” She said there is little neighborhood communication and there are no block clubs in the Jackson block. “You can’t expect them to get involved in the neighborhood if living conditions are so poor.” Yet, she added, “Some social scientists say the biggest predictor of crime is lack of neighborhood involvement – people let it happen.”
Ald. Holmes said she and Officer Noble have been working on ways to get the community more involved. She said she feels some of the residents there are willing to become involved but are wary of City promises. “They have seen that nothing has been done there in 40 years, so people want you to prove to them that the City is going to do something.”
“We want to be engaged there,” said Cmdr. Guenther, “and we want the community to be engaged before there is more violence.”
Ald. Holmes said, “If we can have the City do their part, then we can help the neighbors do their part.”
The other two target areas for the SNAP program are the 2100 block of Darrow Avenue and the 100-300 blocks of Custer Avenue, Officer Noble said.