Public Safety Commissioner watches Skokie’s streets
Mark Penning and Katie Hollenberg
Updated: March 8, 2013 6:18AM
Since Mark Penning moved to Skokie almost 10 years ago, he and his wife Katie Hollenberg have become instrumental in a host of community safety initiatives aimed at keeping the village crime-free.
Outside of business hours when Penning isn’t working as a wholesale insurance broker in his downtown Loop office, he dedicates much of his time to serving on the Village of Skokie’s Public Safety Commission, where his job is to advise the Board of Trustees on safety issues affecting the community.
Penning, a father of two young sons with wife Katie Hollenberg, recently initiated a neighborhood watch program on his block. We asked Penning what being a safety advocate means to him.
Q: How did you end up joining the Public Safety Commission?
A: Two years ago, I had been bugging village officials about different things I was interested in changing about the community, such as what could be done to make Skokie a more desirable place to do business, for example. I was also interested in redevelopment issues. I think the village felt that since I was so interested in what was going on here, that I would be a great addition to the Public Safety Commission, where there was an opening for a new member. Joining was a great way for me to get involved and I’ve been learning more about how the police, fire and other departments are working together to make the village a better place to live.
Q: What are some of the issues currently being addressed by the safety commission, and how do you spread awareness of those issues?
A: School safety is a hot-button issue right now, especially for parents. We’ve been talking about it a lot at meetings. We’ve also been talking about bike and traffic safety. Our job as commissioners is to go back into our own neighborhoods and relay information about those issues to our neighbors so the community has more in-depth knowledge about what’s going on.
Q: Are there any public events held throughout the year to increase safety awareness?
A: We host a bike rodeo each spring, where kids and families come out and learn to better maneuver the streets and sidewalks throughout the village. Last year we all rode on the new bike path from downtown Skokie to Dempster. It’s a great way to meet other families who share an interest in keeping kids safe on bikes. Keeping our kids safe is the number one most important issue for families.
Q: What aspects of a neighborhood watch program make it a success?
A: Getting to know your neighbors — who they are, and what types of visitors they usually expect — helps create a vested interest in what’s happening in your neighborhood. Also, educating the neighborhood about what can be done to protect property is important. People often think they’re helpless when it comes to protecting their own property, but they actually can do simple things like installing sensor lights, trimming the hedges around the property to create better visibility and locking car doors.
Q: Should crime be a major concern in a small community like Skokie?
A: Crime doesn’t happen often here, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned. It’s always good to be vigilant and on the lookout.
Q: Why do you feel it’s important to be actively involved in your community?
A: If you look at schools as a comparison, the more parents are involved in their kids’ education, the more likely students are to be successful. When you care about how a community is going to be run, and about the values of that community, in the end it just makes it an overall better place to live.