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A police outpost inside the Dominick’s Food Store in Evanston Plaza, Dempster Street at Dodge Avenue, may reduce thefts of alcohol within the store, specifically thefts by youth, but some residents remain angry, saying that Dominick’s is getting special treatment for a problem they believe it created. Others say they are worried about how the outpost will affect the perception of the neighborhood.

About three dozen residents attended a neighborhood meeting at Perla Café on July 28, most of whom voiced strong opposition to the outpost, now under construction inside the store. Dominick’s says the construction is being done solely at its expense.

“You are putting police in a situation that is going to scare off some kids, but not all, because they won’t see you in a locked room watching a monitor,” said Mary Jo Wisniewski. “I think you need police presence in a different way – a physical presence in the neighborhood. I don’t want my tax dollars to pay for Dominick’s security at all. I want to pay for police in my neighborhood,” she added.

“What has Dominick’s done to mitigate the problem?” asked Jevoid Simmons. “You still will have the same kinds of activities in the community. … I’m for economic development, but I’m afraid that what you’re doing will have a reverse, negative impact. … In a neighborhood that doesn’t have such a great reputation, an extra police officer [on the street] could help.”

Most of the business-owners and managers who attended an earlie June meeting of the West Village Business Association appeared to agree that shoplifting at the grocery store and other crime in the area present a problem.

Beyond that, opinion was similarly divided about a remedy. Since residents did not attend the business meeting, Second Ward Alderman Peter Braithwaite has scheduled a ward meeting for 7 p.m. tomorrow night at the Robert Crown Center, with the police outpost as its main topic.

Perception and reality intertwine in this area, home to quiet neighborhoods and small businesses, as well as many fast-food restaurants and the problematic shopping plaza. (The RoundTable’s offices are located in the area.)

Most business owners and residents say they are comfortable in the area. There are block parties, neighborhood get-togethers, community initiatives and list-serves. Petty crime has for the most part been down in the area because of community spirit and vigilance. But in the past few years there have been four murders – of which three are still unsolved – and several shootings here.

Police Chief Richard Eddington’s response focused on the reality of thefts of alcohol by underage drinkers and the concern for the perception of the neighborhood. He said he was concerned not only about the theft of alcohol but about the fact that most of the thieves are under the legal age for drinking.

“I’m a police officer who wants to avoid arresting people. I’m concerned about the theft and about what happens next – the ‘follow-on’ crimes – antisocial and aggressive acts. … I’m looking to avoid that. It will be better for [kids] if our presence at Dominick’s deters them from stealing liquor.” He said kids who are not deterred from these thefts but are arrested could have a criminal record.

Addressing the concern about the perception of the neighborhood, Chief Eddington said, “You don’t hear me saying you’ve got a bad reputation. … This attitude about your reputation is self-driven. So why don’t you stop saying it?”

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said, “Everyone wants the same thing – to stop teenagers from stealing or attempting to steal alcohol from Dominicks. The debate was spirited and healthy. If plan A does not work, that group will come up with plan B, C and D until we solve the problem.”

Chief Eddington said he wishes to have the outpost in place before school starts: “I’m going to do something for the kids, and I hope that the adults and Dominick’s can make up. If something better comes along – I’m in.”

Applause for that last statement ended the meeting.

Neighbors Debate Police Response to Party

The police outpost at Dominick’s was not the sole topic of the meeting of the Dewey-Darrow and Florence-Crain neighbors on July 28 meeting at Perla Café. The murder of Juan L. Sanchez in the 1200 block of Dodge Avenue, allegedly by someone he encountered at a neighborhood party and possibly knew beforehand, drew criticism of police by some neighbors.

According to police reports, Mr. Sanchez was beaten at a party on July 16 party, which, by neighbors’ accounts, was a day-long, loud party. Mr. Sanchez was found dead in his home, also in the 1200 block of Dodge Avenue, the next day.

Dickelle Fonda said she had called the police non-emergency number at 11 p.m., and “”30 minutes later, the volume went down.””

Yet at least one resident said the music was loud again the next morning. On Sunday morning, said Wanda Mays, the music was so loud she called the police from her cellphone, holding the phone out into the neighborhood so the police could hear the noise but “”was told they were busy.””

The music was so loud at 11:45 a.m. on Sunday morning [July 17], that it surely disrupted church services in the area, she said. She had called from the Dominick’s parking lot, she said, and stayed for a while, but there was no police response to her call.

That morning, said Police Chief Richard Eddington, police were “”stretched thin.”” Officers were helping set up for the Grand Prix bicycle race in downtown Evanston and were dealing with a fatal traffic accident on Chicago Avenue which, it turned out, was not traceable back to the party.

One resident said, “”If you look at it from our perspective, we get less and less interested in calling you – and [if that happens] it’s going to start that downward slide. … If we have a good police response, it will help. Otherwise, people will police themselves.””

Chief Eddington said he would look into the matter. “”If we mishandled the calls, I’ll have the information at the Aug. 4 meeting,”” he said.