Crime on the east side of Morgan Park is on the rise, police say.
Last month, there were 24 incidents involving criminal damage on beat 2234 between June 17 and July 15, the Police Department told residents at a CAPS meeting last week for the beat.
That's 10 more than the previous month, says Sgt. Dennis Kettering,
The number of burglaries increased from 16 to 23 and narcotics arrests doubled to 18, says Kettering.
Some residents say the crime situation in the neighborhood would improve if more police officers made their presence known by introducing themselves to residents instead of anonymously driving around.
Morgan Park resident William Alexander, 64, says police aren't taking enough action to stop a group of rowdy kids from repeatedly vandalizing Ada Park.
He says dozens of kids have been taking debris leftover from a construction project on the property and throwing it into the park's pool, at field house windows, and at his cars.
The group already tore down a fence that was later replaced after he called the office of Ald. Carrie Austin (D-34), he says.
Alexander says area police haven't been much help. He recalls one afternoon when two officers stopped by the park and talked to a crowd of 15 to 20 kids. When Alexander asked why they didn't break up the large group, an officer told him she couldn't do anything "because they're kids."
A few hours later "they were fighting like cats and dogs," Alexander says, and five or six squads cars had to come.
If the large crowd was separated in the first place the fight wouldn't have happened, he says, and officers wouldn't have been dispatched.
And kids aren't the only problem. People drink alcohol and smoke marijuana by the park and "officers drive right on by and don't question it," Alexander says.
Alexander says he's called 911 several times but officers are rarely dispatched. Another resident, Deacon Jones, says he's had the same problem when calling in a noise complaint for a neighbor's barking dogs: he makes the call to 911 but no one shows up.
The problem is with the 911 dispatcher, says Kettering. "If you're calling 911 and no one's responding, you can assume the police aren't getting that information," he says.
Kettering suggested several ways to make sure area police are aware of problems at the park and elsewhere. Asking other neighbors to call 911 when trouble arises creates a "phone tree," he says.
"There's strength in numbers," Officer Joe Hurley adds. "With more calls there's a better response."
Setting up a community organization or "block club" is another way to help prevent crime, he says, and the police department can help get a group started.
Kettering agrees that more police "walk and talks" is a good idea and something the district can tell its officers to do. He reminded attendees that in situations like Jones or Alexander's, "make sure more police are aware of your situation" and follow-up by filing a police report when neccessary.