Evanston Police Chief Schenita Stewart says the age at which some young people start to become involved in crime is decreasing.

And, as part of the response to that, Stewart says, she hopes to be able to return school resource officers to District 65 schools.

“We had an incident in which a gun was recovered at Chute Middle School,” Stewart told residents at The Mather this week.

She said she plans to discuss school resource officers with D65’s new interim superintendent, Angel Turner, who, the chief said, is doing “an amazing job.”

Former Evanston police officer Loyce Spells is now the security director at Evanston Township High School, and the department “is continuing the partnership” with the high school, Stewart added.

She says the dress code for SROs at the high school has changed, “They no longer wear uniforms at the school. We want them to be approachable.”

Stewart said there’s been an ongoing gang war in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, “and we’ve gotten spillover from that.”

And, she said, short-staffing in Evanston’s police department has hit specialized teams that deal with gangs and complicated investigations hard.

The Neighborhood Enforcement Team, which once had 12 officers, is down to three, she said, and the Detective Bureau, previously with 25 officers, is now down to nine.

But she praised the department’s intelligence unit that monitors social media postings.

She said a few weeks ago they learned, at 6 p.m. on a Saturday, that youths were planning a “takeover” of Lighthouse Beach at 8 p.m. that evening — similar to disruptive events that had been taking place in public places in Chicago.

Those incidents, the chief said, “were not just teenagers jumping on cars — assaults and batteries were taking place as well.”

She says she deployed officers to Lighthouse Beach — and to the city’s other beaches — and kept the takeover from happening.

“It was an opportunity to send a message that we’re not going to have people come here and do beach takeovers,” Stewart added.

Gang problems, she said, are not all just spillover from Chicago. And combatting the problem has gotten tougher because gang members — likely in response to laws that punish being associated with a gang — are less likely these days to flaunt their gang affiliation with clothing colors or tattoos.

And she urged residents to inform police when they see criminal activity.

“In the 5th Ward we had an old-school shootout and nobody saw nothing,” she said. “We have to not be scared and not allow people to harm other people.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


    1. Am I the only person who thinks this is an absurd comment or am I missing something? If someone steals my car, or someone steals my car at gunpoint, who am I going to call?

      1. I’m right with you, Kathy.
        EPD has been very helpful to me in the past. Given what I’ve seen behind the scenes from the Tobacco shop murders, I have plenty of confidence in them.
        I also believe any police shouldn’t abuse their authority and racially profile, but I know that those things aren’t in place and that makes me sad.

  1. Illegal street gangs and gang members have always been, and continue to be a troublesome and destructive lot to patrol and police. I commend Chief Stewart’s approach towards the problem, but of course there are many, many challenges. Early intervention, de-enlistment incentives, after school programs, tactical interception, real time intelligence, and social media monitoring of gang activities are all good options to get ahead of the problem. Prevention and preparedness are almost always prudent and practical approaches.

  2. Interesting she would cite the kid with a gun at Chute. Was he involved in gangs? I thought he stole the gun from a car.

  3. Rafael, I like your options for getting ahead of the problem. You forgot one: proper parenting and teaching your children right from wrong. And how about getting help as a single parent if you are challenged in that role? And shame on absent fathers that also contribute to this and many other challenges for our youth today.

    Gary G, your comments aren’t bitter or sad, I like them!

  4. Gang graffiti and tagging is rampant throughout Evanston. The city and businesses, as well as CTA and Metra, can’t keep up with removal. Despite this, everyone should report graffiti and tagging to 311. Graffiti and tagging is a part of the gang wars the Chief mentioned.

  5. Thank you Chief Stewart! I am really impressed with Chief Stewart feeling with the issues that have been plaguing our community while others look away in the interest of trying to pretend we in Evanston don’t have problems.

    It should not have been a mystery that Jaquis Irby who was one of the 3 brothers shot at clark street beach earlier this year had gang affiliations.There are still numerous images of him on his own public Facebook page flashing gang signs and using the red blood syringe emoji to signify gang affiliations. The fact that these were all visible while his mom was serving as a District 65 School board member is really wild. Some how this topic is beyond reproach.

    Again, thank you Chief Stewart!

  6. A Police comment that new Interim 65 Supt is doing “an amazing job” – so which “amazing” things re the education system in the schools is she doing… Or is it amazing things we are expecting a School Supt to do about ‘criminal behavior’ of the students now, per article, engaged in by kids at a younger age. It is tiring to continue to read and hear for going on three years now, the excuse of being understaffed with actual Police Officers in the Police Dept. but a coinciding increased criminal behavior by our resident students. Perhaps all the concentration and focus about helping accelerated numbers of addicted and often emotionally and mentally unwell people from areas outside ‘choosing’ to continue to visit and live here in EV (why here??) is a distraction from dealing with problems rooted in the role models kids who are turning to crime have at home and in their neighborhoods

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