Evanston’s crime rate declined through most of this year — but public safety concerns still topped the list of topics Evanston Now readers chose to read about.

Forty-four of the 100 most-read stories on the site focused on public safety concerns.

A spectacular early-morning rollover accident on Dodge Avenue (the #1 most-read-story) on Sept. 27  left a 45-year-old male passenger in the car dead and led to felony aggravated driving under the influence (#65) charges against the car’s driver, Monica Wallace, 42, of 1422 Brown Ave.

As of Christmas day, the city’s homicide toll for the year stood at three, up from one last year. But other major crimes reported to state and federal authorities generally declined — overall down 6.4 percent — through the first 11 months of the year for which comparison numbers were available.

June homicide

On the afternoon of June 8, 27-year-old Ray Owens, a Chicago resident with relatives in Evanston, was shot repeatedly (#27) as he sat in a car parked in the north alley in the 2000 block of Emerson Street.

He died about an hour later after being transported to Evanston Hospital. Police searched for a lone gunman (#41) but were unable to locate him. The case even drew national attention (#67) when it was cited by a New York City prosecutor in an op-ed column in the New York Times that argued for overturning new privacy protections on cell phones.

Owens had protected his cell phone with a passcode but apparently hadn’t told anyone what the code was — so police were unable to determine who he may have exchanged text messages with in the hours before he he was shot.

August homicide

Two gunmen on bicycles (#7) shot two men in the 1800 block of Dodge Avenue in the early morning hours of Aug. 31, leaving one of the victims — Donte Blackwell, 23, of Niles — dead. Police initially said they had “some pretty good leads” (#53) in the case, but so far have been unable to file charges. 

September homicide

Police Chief Richard Eddington and other officers at the 1932 Emerson shooting scene on Sept. 15.

On Sept. 15 as many as four men walked down an alley in the 1900 block of Emerson Street and opened fire (#12) on a group of men standing on the back porch of a building a 1932 Emerson. One bullet struck 45-year-old Cesario Cox Sr., who lived in the 1000 block of McDaniel Ave., in the head. Cox, who police say may not have been the intended victim (#28), died three days later (#21) at Evanston Hospital.

Police Chief Richard Eddington said it appeared that the gunmen who killed Cox were trying to retaliate (#5) against people they believed were responsible for the fatal shooting in August of Donte Blackwell.

A detail from the police heat map showing homicides, shootings and shots-fired reports in the city this year.

Shortly after the third shooting, police announced plans to deploy two officers each day (#61) to work on recovering firearms — focusing on the sections of town with the most reports of shootings and shots-fired incidents.

And, by November, the effort appeared to be showing results, with two men with guns arrested in separate traffic stops on the same day (#30). This month saw two more such arrests just two days apart (#36).

However, to date no one has been charged with any of the year’s three homicides.

Nuisance properties

Concerns that had been percolating in the community about buildings that are the source of frequent police calls and complaints from neighbors surfaced when aldemen at a Human Services Committee meeting Nov. 2 complained about a property at 1716 Dodge Ave. where a 31-year-old woman was found dead in the yard (#20) of an apparent drug overdose.

And they gained even more steam Nov. 11 after two suspects in a shooting incident on Darrow Avenue fled into a building at 1802 Lake St. and hid from police for hours as TV news helicopters circled overhead (#4) before finally surrendering. One of the suspects — a 16-year-old juvenile — was later charged with five felonies (#77).

In response, city officials announced a crackdown (#60) initially targeting 11 nuisance properties — with coordinated efforts involving police, fire and property standards inspectors as well as city attorneys.

While most of the properties involved were older multi-family buildings, one turned out to be a new townhouse (#42) in a city-sponsored subsidized housing development. 

And, at a 5th Ward meeting, Alderman Delores Holmes said that in at least some cases it was relatives of the property owners (#56) who were causing the all the disruption.

By mid-December, Police Chief Eddington and City Attorney Grant Farrar said they were making substantial progress in resolving issues at all 11 of the properties. Farrar added that he planned to propose revisions to strengthen the city’s nuisance property ordinance to aldermen in January.

Evanston police detective Ken Carter creeps up behind the suicidal young man.

And, finally, there was the incident in May, when an off-duty Evanston police detective, Ken Carter, managed to grab a suicidal young man and save him from jumping off (#97) the roof of Evanston’s Maple Avenue garage.

The police departmetn later commended Carter “for his initiative and his selfless actions that resulted in the saving of a human life.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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