A police outpost in the shopping-cart area of the Dominick’s food store in Evanston Plaza, Dempster Street at Dodge Avenue, is being constructed at the food company’s expense. Police Chief Richard Eddington said Dominick’s approached him about establishing the outpost in the store after a spate of thefts of liquor by underage youth. Chief Eddington said he agreed to the outpost because he felt the police presence would deter thefts. “I perceived this as an opportunity for deterrence,” he told some four dozen residents at a Second Ward meeting at Robert Crown Community Center on Aug. 4.
On the back of the Aug. 4 meeting’s agenda prepared by Second Ward Alderman Peter Braithwaite a statement from Dominick’s states, “Dominick’s is very excited to be working in a partnership with the City of Evanston and the Evanston Police department to create this community-protection concept.”
Before the Aug. 4 meeting, the topic had come up in two prior meetings: a meeting of the fledgling West End Business Association, held in June, and a meeting of the Dewey-Darrow and Florence-Crain neighbors, held on July 28. Chief Eddington said he felt that, after a certain point, further dialogue between the neighbors and Dominick’s would be unproductive. “Once I felt that, I made the decision [to go ahead with the outpost],” he said.
Yet neighbors who oppose the police outpost in Dominick’s say they feel there has not been sufficient input from residents and have requested a neighborhood meeting on the subject.
Dickelle Fonda said, “My issue is that this [neighborhood meeting] should have happened a month ago. The permit for the outpost was requested on June 22, and it was approved on July 20. The only public meeting was held after the permit was issued.” Although Ms. Fonda and others spoke at a City Council meeting last month, she said she felt residents had “not had a chance to speak.”
Most residents appear to agree on a couple of basics: that an additional police presence in the neighborhood would be welcome and that deterring kids from committing crimes is a positive measure. Beyond that, though, there is not much meeting of the minds as to whether the Chief’s decision has merit.
Some residents said they objected to the outpost at Dominick’s because they felt the grocery store would receive additional protection at the expense of the rest of the neighborhood. Others said they felt that a police outpost there would diminish the reputation of the neighborhood. Still others said they felt Dominick’s created the problem by displaying alcohol in the open at several places in the store, where it could easily tempt young shoplifters. Previously, it had been sold in a more contained area of the store. A few residents asked what steps, beside the request for the outpost, Dominick’s had taken to address the problem.
Cindy Levitt asked, “Why, if shoplifting is the issue, is the liquor at the front of the store?”
John Bushnell said, “Looking at the statement from Dominick’s, this is clearly not a neighborhood-protection policy. It’s a Dominick’s protection policy. … It seems to me the problem is the liquor.”
Those who said they supported the outpost said they did so for public-safety reasons and to protect or deter youth from committing crimes.
Ald. Braithwaite said the word “deterrence” resonates “for me and for people [youth] who look like me.” He said having a family member hurt or arrested for criminal activity can be “devastating” to a family. He added that economic development was important to him and “a police presence there will help attract people to that mall.” The shopping center, previously owned by Joseph Freed and Associates, was foreclosed last year. Foresite Management is the receiver, and Bank of America now owns the property.
Kai Joy, who identified himself as being “in the security industry,” said, “I can speak to the fact that that shopping center has very little deterrence [of crime]. … The security that Dominick’s uses does not create deterrence. Allowing police in there … will help.”
Oliver Ruff said, “I see the plan as proactive. I see that as more important than location.”
State Representative Robyn Gabel said, “Since this issue has caused such concern, I think it has to be evaluated. We need data at the beginning and data at the end. I asked Dominick’s for data on thefts and they would not give it to me.”
“This is an interim solution,” said Chief Eddington. “Where I’m going is this is a direction that can be taken by your police department to keep youth from interacting with the criminal justice system. There will be an evaluation of this decision to see how this goes and what the impact is. I am positive it will be good for the community. I am positive it will be a deterrent.”