Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, second from left, congratulates Evanston police officers (left to right) Michael Steel, Tanya Noble and Brian Rust for their community policing that significantly reduced crime in the 1900 block of Jackson Avenue.

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Years of heard work, determination and collaboration were the real-life forces behind an apparent “Miracle on Jackson Avenue” that earned the Evanston Police Department an international award. On Dec. 13, three members of the police department’s problem-solving team – Officers Tanya Noble, Michael Jones and Brian Rust – received the 2010 Community Policing Award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The award “honors those departments worldwide that have prevented and decreased crime by forging partnerships with their communities.”

As recently as four years ago the 1900 block of Jackson Avenue was notorious throughout the City. The poor lighting and lax community attitude allowed gang activity, drug sales, loitering and other antisocial activities, said Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward. “With the slumlords, the residents didn’t care about the neighborhood,” she said. The neighborhood needed help.

Officer Noble, the beat officer for the area was serious about the assignment to improve the block that for 30 years or more had been infamous for its criminal activity. “It was poorly lighted. The garbage was not always picked up.” Absentee landlords did not keep up the property and had no accountability, Officer Noble said in an interview last summer; several foreclosed and vacant properties were used for gun and drug sales.

She researched and helped implement Community Policing Through Environmental Design, CPTED, a strategy that had been used successfully in Europe but was not well known in the United States. The concept of CPTED is to look at a neighborhood through the eyes of an imagined criminal, Officer Noble said. A Community Development Block Grant and cooperation from the City of Evanston helped secure better lighting. A crackdown on landlords – including information on screening prospective tenants – and the formation of a block club help re-instill community spirit in the block.

The proof came last summer when Officer Tom Cabanski reported a 98 percent drop in calls to police over a one-year period. “Between August 2007 and August 2008 there were 1,187 calls to the police in that block. Between August 2008 and August 2009 there were 50 calls,” Ald. Holmes said.

CPTED, also known as the Safer Neighborhood Area Program or SNAP is also being used on on the 1700-1900 Blocks of Hovland, Grey and Brown and the 2100 Block of Darrow, police said. A similar project, the Full-Circle Project, completed in October, utilized CPTED principles to evaluate the Howard Street Corridor.

“[Receiving] this national award makes it a great evening for the Evanston Police Department,” said Police Chief Richard Eddington on Dec. 13.