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A second serious crime on Florence Avenue this year – a home invasion and aggravated sexual assault – drew about 150 neighbors to a meeting with aldermen and police at Washington School on July 2.
Violence in an Otherwise Quiet Neighborhood
Neighbors expressed concern about this crime and about the two unsolved murders in the area: those of Lynda Twyman in 2006 and Jevar Brooks in February 2008.
“What’s wrong with our neighborhood?” asked one resident. “Why are we attracting so much crime?”
Sergeant Angela Hearts-Glass said police are “still working on those two cold cases.” Commander Tom Guenther said the sexual assault was a “crime of opportunity” and did not indicate that the neighborhood attracted crime or was crime-ridden. He said there have been 39 break-ins in Beat 74 in the last six months. That beat encompasses Main Street to Church Street and Ridge Avenue to McCormick Boulevard.
Police Chief Richard Eddington and the other police officers who spoke stressed the need for community involvement and neighborhood organization in both solving and preventing crimes.
Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said, “We’re not a suburb; we’re urban-suburban. Crime is a fact of life here. We may not like it, but we have to live with it.”
Ald. Bernstein and Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, advised the neighbors to “get to know each other, turn on your porch lights, and if something doesn’t feel right in the area, call the police.”
Chief Eddington told the neighbors their perceptions are important. “You know what your neighborhood should feel like and look like,” he said. “We [the police] can look at the neighborhood with the same eyes and not see anything amiss.”
Some neighbors questioned whether the City had a sufficient number of police officers to keep Evanstonians safe.
Chief Eddington said he felt the number was sufficient and added strategic deployment is a key to covering the City. “A cop on every corner won’t prevent all crime,” he said.
Police suggested several ways of establishing neighbor-to-neighbor communication: block clubs, phone trees, neighborhood-watch groups and list servers.
The Dewey-Darrow neighborhood group, which has had a list-server for some time, helped establish a Florence-Crain list-serve after the murder of Mr. Brooks. In the wake of this crime, an on-line group is now forming as an umbrella group to keep neighbors informed about crime in the area and follow-ups by the Evanston police department.
That group had almost immediate results, as gunshots were reported at 3 a.m. on July 3 in the same block of Florence Ave. as the rape occurred. A few hours later the police department sent the list server a report that Chadd J’Bron Shepard, 1708 Keeney St., was arrested three blocks away. The report said the police officer “located a firearm tucked in the waistband of Shepard’s jeans.”
In addition, just after midnight on July 6 police arrested Anthony Peter Paul Davis of Chicago on two felony counts in connection with the shooting of a juvenile at the Burger King at 1829 Dempster St., three blocks west of Florence Ave.