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Summer in Evanston can be one of our greatest times of year. Especially after the difficult winter we just experienced, the summer brings with it time to spend with family and friends enjoying our community.
This summer has also brought with it the continuing challenge of confronting violence in our community. Evanston should be a safe place to live, raise a family and do business for everyone. However, not every Evanston resident feels safe.
The shootings we have experienced in Evanston this summer are related to ongoing disputes between a small number of individuals. These acts of violence are not random. The Evanston Police Department (EPD) is working tirelessly to bring the individuals involved to justice. The challenge is not identifying the suspects, but rather having residents come forward to provide information that leads to the arrest and conviction of these individuals.
The problem of violence in Evanston is everyone’s problem. The City of Evanston has taken several additional steps this summer to make Evanston safer:
1. EPD has deployed additional resources to investigate these crimes and is assigning additional officers to problem areas.
2. EPD has created a Gun Suppression Task Force specifically geared to getting guns off the streets of our community. In the last two weeks, five arrests have been made specifically for gun possession.
3. EPD has accelerated the way it processes crime scene evidence by joining the Northeastern Illinois Crime Lab consortium and has increased ties with the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab and its partnership with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to more quickly match crimes involving guns with suspects.
4. EPD continues to deploy its “armored car,” a mobile surveillance vehicle which is parked in target areas to gather video of activities. Additional lighting and security cameras have also been installed around Evanston Township High School.
5. The City’s Youth and Young Adult Division (YYAD) has employed over 500 youth (a 320% increase from 2012) through the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program to help young people be more actively engaged over the summer. The division has also successfully developed comprehensive workforce training programs targeted towards our most at-risk young people.
6. The YYAD employs six young men and women who serve as outreach workers who interact directly with the youth involved in these criminal activities to connect them with job and training opportunities.
7. The City’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department has over 4,100 youth involved in camps, in addition to other activities and programs this summer, such as lakefront sports, open gyms throughout Evanston, roller skating and ice skating. Many youth take advantage of these activities free of charge through camp scholarships and free beach passes.
8. The Evanston Public Library has had more than 2,200 of our youngest readers and 466 teens (an increase of 100) actively involved in our annual summer reading program. This year’s theme, “Create Your Dreams,” is providing many opportunities for youth of all ages to engage in hands-on activities, including drawing, crafts, LEGO building, STEM-related programs and book making. Family Activity Nights have brought the entire family to the library – a safe and welcoming space for everyone to read, create, explore and learn.
The Evanston Public Library and the Dajae Coleman Foundation have set about to make this summer a time of reflection, learning, and discussion about youth violence. We are jointly presenting programs inspired by the book, “How Long Will I Cry: Voices of Youth Violence,” described by journalist Rick Kogan as “a stunning,
stay-with-you-forever new book,” and by Booklist Online as “a book everyone should read.” “How Long Will I Cry” presents an oral history of Chicago youth violence through the heartbreaking and hopeful stories of real people in their own words. All programs are free and open to all. A dramatic reading of the book by our Teen Theater Troupe will be followed by a conversation with Cobe Williams, a Violence Interrupter. Both programs will be presented on Saturday, August 9.
I am very proud of the work of the City of Evanston in addressing these issues, but it is not enough.
I call on all Evanston residents to get more involved in the activities in their neighborhood.
If you see someone with a gun, call 9-1-1.
If you see any suspicious activity in your neighborhood, call 9-1-1.
The EPD also offers an anonymous text-a-tip program. Text CRIMES (274637) with EPDTIP in message line followed by the tip information.
If you know the parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles of young people involved in crimes, talk to the adults and encourage them to talk to these young people or contact the EPD directly.
The City and a variety of neighborhood groups are hosting events for the National Night Out on Tuesday, August 5 to demonstrate our commitment to safe neighborhoods throughout Evanston. Participate in one of these events. For more information, go to our website, www.cityofevanston.org, or call 3-1-1.
For regular updates from the EPD, go to their website: www.cityofevanston.org/police, follow them on Facebook, on Twitter @EvanstonPD and/or sign up for the Daily Crime Bulletin atwww.cityofevanston.org/news
Keeping Evanston safe is everyone’s business. Please join me in taking action to keep our community safe.