Rogers Park residents, police mobilize to fight gangs, public drunkenness

Curbing drug and gang activity, youth-related crime and public drunkenness topped the agenda of a Town Hall meeting on public safety held earlier this week by Rogers Park residents.

Residents are fed up with activities that are eroding the quality of life in their neighborhood and are organizing to help solve the problems.

The meeting, held Tuesday at the United Church of Rogers Park, 1545 W. Morse Ave. was hosted by Alderman Joe Moore, D-49, city police Commander Steve Caluris, state Rep. Harry Osterman, D-Chicago, and state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago.

The meeting was meant to inspire area residents to volunteer to help solve problems in their neighborhood. 

"This isn't a repository for complaints," says Jim Lew, a long-time neighborhood resident and corporate consultant who offered his services to the group. "It's an opportunity for volunteerism."

During the meeting, Caluris, the city's deputy police chief specializing in narcotics and gangs, said the community and cops needed to work hand-in-hand to solve the gang problem in Rogers Park.

He offered no specific information about gang activity, however.

“The complexity of street gangs will not be solved overnight." Caluris says. "It’ll take the police and the community to be strongly involved to turn the tide.”

Rogers Park resident Pat Kenny, an active member of Beat 2432, urged people to volunteer, referencing his own situation in which community members organized to shut down drug activity in three buildings.

“It doesn’t happen overnight," Kenny says. "It took 3-½ years to bring it down, but our block is much, much better now.”

Public drinking is another problem and Kenny and other residents say they want cops to more strictly enforce open container laws and conduct more field sobriety tests.

Problems at Sullivan High School at 6631 N. Bosworth were also discussed during the meeting.

The Boys and Girls Club proposed a plan that would’ve had it operating out of the Gale Community Center. However, the plan failed to go through this year because of opposition from some community members and the Gale Advisory Board.

Cesar Julio, a resident of Rogers Park and a regular member of Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy meetings, insisted that the only way to help change things for Sullivan High School students is to get more parents involved. None of the parents show up to the meetings held in the neighborhood and the school, he insists.

“Was there any outreach done to Sullivan or the community?” asked Laurie Grauer, a former Rogers Park resident who attended Tuesday's meeting. Emails were sent out to people on Alderman Moore’s mailing list, but Grauer said that the emails only reached a segment of the people that need to attend meetings.

“There has to be more of an outreach on the public sector,” Grauer says.

A follow-up meeting will be held in February or March.