Rats, trash and safety dominated discussion at the Eighth Ward’s community meeting Thursday, Jan. 26, in which residents packed the virtual forum to quiz city officials.

Evanston’s Health and Human Services Director Ike Ogbo answered questions after giving a presentation about the services the departments provide in the city.

“We do have a rat problem in Evanston, and it is something that we are diligently working on,” Ogbo said.

Evanston Health and Human Services Director Ike Ogbo illustrates potential rodent access points in a City of Evanston “rodent control” video. Credit: City of Evanston video

Ogbo took notes as residents relayed specific locations, such as the CTA Yellow Line, where trash tends to pile up in the ward, and as a result, rats fester.

Addressing the rat issue falls under the health department. The city decided to work on the issue internally rather than working with a third party to get a better handle on the problem, Ogbo said, hiring a pest control person in October or November, Ogbo said.

Resident Mickie Jackson suggested that Ogbo post more educational information about ways to help mitigate the rat problem on the health department’s pest control web page.

“As you mentioned, people who do not pick up after their dogs, rats will consume dog feces,” Ogbo said. “People who are not maintaining their compost, bird feeders, you name it, will definitely attract rats. So I have taken down your suggestion, and it’s something that I can definitely provide on our website so that it’s more specific to these issues.”

Public safety

Evanston Police Chief Schenita Stewart Credit: Gina Castro

The conversation shifted to safety on Howard Street. Evanston Police Department Officer Otha Brooks, who works in the Second and Eighth Wards, shared recent crime trends in the Eighth Ward. Police Chief Schenita Stewart weighed in on concerns brought up by residents too.

Good To Go Jamaican Cuisine & Event Space, 711 Howard St., was vandalized on the second day of the New Year, the second time in two months. Both incidents were caught on a city security camera, said co-owner Lenice Levy during the meeting. But the footage came out blurry and wasn’t useful, Levy said.

“So I’m just wondering what is the purpose of them if they’re not serving the purpose they were intended for? Like they can’t identify anyone,” Levy said.

Chief Stewart says she’s aware of this issue in other areas of the city and is working to improve the quality of the camera footage.

“There’s other locations within the city where there’s city cameras that the quality I’ll just say is awful,” Stewart said. “…so that process has started. There is a financial component to that, so it’s not going to happen overnight.”

Catalytic converters on residents’ cars are being stolen at an increasing rate, Officer Brooks said. Converters contains high-value metals, and they’re relatively easy to steal.

Brooks recommended that residents park their cars in garages, if they have one, or under a streetlight.

Renovating Howard Street

Eighth Ward City Council Member Devon Reid updated the meeting on Howard Street.

Eighth Ward City Council Member Devon Reid Credit: Gina Castro

Evanston and Chicago are now in the process of selecting a firm to conduct a retail study on Howard Street, which the two cities borden on, Reid said.

Reid has been working with the Housing Authority of Cook County and “potentially other developers” to combine the laundromat property the city recently purchased with another nearby parcel the city owns to create a new mixed-use development. Reid said the development will include affordable housing and commercial retail spaces.

The city council also approved funding a consultant to create a feasibility plan and study for a special service area along Howard Street.

“We believe this will help continue the progress that’s been happening on Howard Street,” Reid said.

Gina Castro

Gina Castro is a Racial Justice fellow for the RoundTable. She recently earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she studied investigative reporting....

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  1. Eighth Ward residents are concerned about public health and public safety?

    Who would have thunk it?

    Given the alderman’s obsession with nude beaches, telling small businesses how to operate, and reducing the police’s ability to address quality of life crimes this comes as a major surprise!