The look of a block sets the tone for its criminal activity, according to some theories. Thus, controlling the environment can control crime. Many have doubtless heard of the “broken windows” notion, that any evidence of lack of caring or upkeep of a home or a neighborhood sends a message of weariness – a message that crime, like the broken windows, will be tolerated here.
Crime Prevention Though Environmental Design (CPTED), posits another theory: that the physical environment itself – the alleys, parks, lighting and City services – can facilitate or repel crime. Using CPTED principals and a modest $25,000 Community Development Block Grant, police officers, other City staff members and the alderman of the ward have transformed a crime-infested block on the City’s West Side into the beginnings of a neighborhood.
The 1900 block of Jackson Avenue has been a notorious pit of criminal activity for more than 30 years. Even people in Evanston who do not normally pay a lot of attention to crime statistics know of that block. So it was with great pleasure that we heard that police department data show a 98 percent reduction in service calls to the area in the past year.
Other strategies, such as regular garbage pickups and increased property-standards enforcement, helped improve the safety and quality of life made on that block.
We applaud the leadership of Police Officer Tanya Noble, Alderman Delores Holmes, the residents, City staff and the others who envisioned a neighborhood at peace and worked to make it so.
We know that continual vigilance will be required, as is increasingly the case throughout the City and elsewhere in this prolonged economic crisis. But the 1900 block of Jackson has been transformed, and the possibility of a similar transformation – with tenacity, hard work and commitment – exists for other troubled blocks.