Thursday marked the official return of the city’s community policing unit, which had shuttered for several months due to staffing shortages, Evanston Police Department Sgt. Chelsea Brown told residents at the Eighth Ward meeting Thursday night.

Police block traffic to ETHS. Credit: Evan Girard

But while the restaffing of the community policing unit was good news, ward residents wanted to discuss what they were most upset about, the not-so-good news about the lack of police communications.

What happened?

Two weeks ago, an unknown person shot someone about 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17 in a parked in their car along the 1700 block of Brummel Street in south Evanston’s Eighth Ward.

It happened just a few blocks from James Park, the Levy Senior Center and the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Brown said. The victim ended up with non-life threatening injuries, and the city’s detective bureau is now investigating, but no suspects are in custody.

Brown described the situation as likely not random but “probably a more targeted violent act.” But the main concern shared by residents attending the virtual ward meeting, though, was why they had received no news about the shooting.

EPD Officer Otha Brooks is one of the community policing officers assigned to the Second, Eighth and Ninth wards. Credit: Richard Cahan

In fact, Brown and Eighth Ward Council Member Devon Reid had not even mentioned the shooting when Nichola Goss, who lives on Brummel, asked for an update.

“Why wasn’t this posted? Nobody knows anything about this shooting that happened in front of our house,” Goss said. “It’s not in the paper, it’s not in WGN. There’s been no notice. … [Amazon] Ring videos were shared with the police department, and there was still no follow up with any of us about what happened. It’s pretty disturbing.”

The police department also did not publish any email or social media notices of the shooting at the time, and several other residents at Thursday’s meeting said they had no idea about the incident. Dan Solomon, who lives on the 1600 block of Brummel street, had not heard about it, and he said he was “surprised” and “disturbed” – a sentiment reflected by the 20 or so people at the virtual meeting.

No news is not good news

“This is disappointing to be so in the dark about this,” Eighth Ward resident Karen Johnson commented in the virtual meeting chat.

Brown said the police investigation into the shooting is ongoing, but she did not have much available information because she works in the community policing unit, not the detective bureau.

“Unfortunately, I don’t have any information I can provide as an update to the case. I don’t believe, to my knowledge, that there’s a greater threat, necessarily, to the community,” Brown said. “However, that’s not to excuse the fact that it is disturbing when you live on that block, and there’s an act of violence that occurs right there out in front of your street.”

Brown also explained that the community policing unit is still down several officers from its usual staffing level, but teams of two will conduct community policing in three wards each for the foreseeable future.

Those community policing officers will have a modified schedules, working 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at least through the upcoming fall and winter months.

“We are still in a staffing crisis. I will call it a crisis because we are very low on our staffing in the police department,” Brown said. “But we are trying to restructure to get a couple of folks back up in the community policing unit to try to fill out this unit and make it more robust.”

Robberies and burglaries in the ward

Earlier in the meeting, Reid and Brown also discussed what they described as a spate of armed robberies along Sherman Avenue in the ward. The police’s special operations team is involved in that investigation, but the department has yet to make any arrests, according to Brown.

“I know that this is concerning, especially when you have not just a strong arm robbery where force is used, but an armed robbery where a weapon is displayed,” Brown said. “They do seem to be occurring in the same general area, so I would just caution everybody that if you’re walking down in that area, just be very aware of your surroundings.”

Several recent break-ins have also occurred at businesses along the Howard Street corridor, Reid said. Burglars stole several thousand dollars of alcohol from Palmhouse. Good To Go Jamaican Cuisine, and Event Space also had items stolen.

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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