Skokie Voice forum tackles public safety concerns
Skokie Village Trustee Randy Roberts encourages participation in Skokie Police's Neighborhood Watch program at a June 20 community forum on public safety. | Mike Isaacs~Sun-Times Media
SKOKIE VOICE SURVEY
Skokie Voice received just under 300 responses to its on-line survey regarding public safety.
•More than 67 percent believe police presence has remained the same in Skokie over the last year, 19 percent say it’s increased.
•Nearly 50 percent believe that public safety in Skokie has stayed the same over the last year, nearly 48 percent say it’s less safe.
•More than 56 percent say safety in their neighborhoods is the same over the last year, more than 40 percent say it’s less safe.
•About 50 percent believe safety in Skokie is the same over the last three to five years, about 48 percent believe Skokie is less safe.
•About 56 percent say safety in their neighborhoods is the same during daylight the last three to five years, 48 percent say less safe.
•Nearly 62 percent say their neighborhoods are less safe after dark over the last three to five years, nearly 36 percent say it’s the same.
•Nearly 50 percent say the village’s communications to residents about public safety has been good or excellent, more than 34 percent say fair and nearly 17 percent poor.
•More than 70 percent rate the Skokie Police Department’s effectiveness and responsiveness either good or excellent, under 18 percent rate them as fair.
•More than 63 percent say more patrols are needed at public parks, 62 percent say more patrols are needed in neighborhoods, more than 44 percent want more resources allocated for public safety without raising taxes, more than 42 percent want traffic calming devices installed, more than 38 percent want an increase in patrol officers, more than 10 percent want taxes raised for public safety resources, more than 6 percent say no changes are needed.
Updated: July 29, 2012 6:13AM
Traffic safety throughout Skokie and a proposal to require licensing of each unit in multi-family rental buildings were on the minds of village residents last week at a lively community forum on public safety.
Sponsored by the busy residents’ association, Skokie Voice, the forum was especially timely considering community buzz about two recent serious crimes in Skokie (see adjoining story) and the controversial rental licensing proposal scheduled to go before the Village Board July 16.
Skokie Voice didn’t only offer a venue to air these issues, but its community safety committee analyzed crime statistics dating back several years and conducted an on-line survey.
Skokie Voice focused on simple and aggravated assault and battery, robberies and burglaries over five years.
“We paid special attention to where those crimes have been occurring in Skokie over a five-year period,” said Skokie Voice’s Marda Dunsky, a community safety committee member. “We found a clear correlation between frequency of these types of crimes and locales of occurrence in neighborhoods that have higher concentrations of multi-family dwellings.”
A proposal to license all multi-family rental housing units in Skokie came from the data after it was presented to village leaders. There are about 5,000 qualifying units in 1,200 buildings in Skokie.
Skokie Voice and the village have been on the same page about the licensing proposal, noting that multiple other communities have a similar program.
Skokie Police Chief Tony Scarpelli said that should the program be approved by the Village Board, police will hire an additional staff member dedicated to the program full-time. The program requires landlord training for certification, and the officer will also work with property owners on ways to reduce crime, the chief said.
Unlike two public hearings on the proposed measure, the Skokie Voice forum did not bring out much opposition to the proposal. But some landlords have been on record as opposing the program, which calls for an annual licensing fee of $25 per unit to offset the expense of hiring a police officer to work full-time for the program. Another $10 fee per certified owner or managing agent also would be charged.
Resident Julia Rand asked about smaller buildings that may have been converted to rental or single-family rental housing, which at this time is not part of the proposed program.
Rigoni said the it could be expanded in the future. “We want to walk before we run,” he said.
Residents June 20 repeatedly raised concerns about traffic safety in the village — especially in the wake of the tragic death of 8-year-old Carter Vo in a recent car crash at Main Street and St. Louis Avenue.
“I’m out walking with my dog probably five or six miles a day,” said resident Howard Frank. “Not a day goes by in those walks where there isn’t an outrageous (traffic situation).”
Residents provided specific locations where they say vehicles speed or where other traffic offenses occur. They made suggestions ranging from stop signs to calming devices — all of which village officials say will be examined.
Skokie officials maintained that the tragic car crash and an incident where shots were fired in downtown Skokie were unusual occurrences. The latter was not a random act, they noted, but a domestic situation.
Resident Jerry Kohn though said he’s concerned about officials categorizing such crimes as “never happened before never will happen again things” instead of acknowledging there is some crime problem in Skokie.
He also pointed to a recent robbery of a woman on Skokie Boulevard.
“I just hope that these problems will be faced head on rather than just saying they are an anomaly or unusual,” Kohn said.
Skokie Police have noted that overall crime in the village has gone down in recent years. But Dunsky said Skokie Voice’s analysis shows certain types of violent crimes have not decreased and in some cases have gone up.
Skokie Voice research, she said, indicates that the number of uniformed police officers is down by four since 2009.
The village has recently hired a handful of new officers after a hiring freeze during the heart of the recession, But even during those times, Rigoni stressed, the vacancies were not for officers on the street.
Scarpelli said crime for 2012 is up by 1 percent compared to last year. He said that there are too many “crimes of opportunity,” which include leaving vehicle doors unlocked and desirable items in view.