Community ‘Walk and Talk’ addresses safety concerns


Nate Burleyson

John Hein, 18th District commander, attended the event to hear out residents about their concerns in the community.

Last Friday, community members gathered to walk with area police commanders and Alderman Michele Smith (43rd Ward).

The ‘Walk and Talk’ came after several high-profile shootings and crimes in the 43rd Ward, which includes much of Lincoln Park and Old Town: Last week, a cop was shot through the at North and Sheffield, and last month, a DePaul student was stabbed in the butt outside of McGee’s and a student robbed at knifepoint on campus during the involvement fair.

Around 25 area residents joined Alderman Smith and new 18th district Commander Jon Hein for a stroll around Old Town. Residents had an opportunity to ask questions and address safety concerns amid rising crime in the area.

The 18th district covers the Near North area of Chicago, which stretches from the Chicago River to the south to Fullerton Ave. at the north.

The anti-crime walk intended to engage community members and discuss “how to keep this precious jewel safe,” according to State Senator Sara Feigenholtz, 6th District.

Neighbors took a walking tour of their community, pointing out areas they were worried about.

“It’s very important that we take these walks. The city of Chicago is experiencing something that many of us have never experienced before,” Feigenholtz said.

Alderman Smith hosted another “Walk and Talk” in Oz Park in June, after a young boy was fatally shot on the 2000 block of N. Burling St, near Lincoln Park High School.

Jeffery Peters, a resident of Old Town, showed the group his back gate, which he said was broken down by robbers. The perpetrators broke into his house, poured tequila on his dog’s eyes, and stole and destroyed his belongings — including the wedding ring of his recently deceased mother.

“It just makes me feel violated,” Peters said.

Despite on-offs like the case Peters’, thefts are actually down this year, according to CPD data.  Violent crimes are on the rise this year, with murders in Area 3 up 90 percent this year compared to 2019, and motor vehicle theft up 38 percent since 2019.

To address rising crime numbers, Hein said the 18th district community needs to support police by staying in contact with each other.

To put a stop to the crime, the alderman is spearheading a private camera initiative. Last week, the alderman sent out an email announcing an “OEMC Camera Program.” Smith is introducing a program to fundraise and install more of the $25,000 cameras.

“Several residents have approached our office to ask whether the city will accept donations to help buy additional police cameras,” she wrote in the email.

Recent crime in the area has put DePaul students, many new to campus, on edge.

DePaul public safety officers are present on campus, along with the ubiquitous blue boxes stationed around campus. Public safety also sends students emergency notifications.

“DPU alerts are helpful, albeit a bit anxiety inducing,” said freshman Lauren Hunt.

Natalie Lara, a sophomore at the Lincoln Park campus, said she takes extra care when walking home at night and is sometimes nervous taking the train. However, she said a safer campus and community doesn’t necessarily mean more policing.

“I wish there was a larger security presence on campus, however I do realize that not everyone is comfortable with a heavy law informant presence with reason,” Lara said. “I think there should be a better balance.”