Evanston aldermen tonight are to receive a preliminary report on ways to encourage more city police officers and firefighters to live in Evanston.

The idea arose from a council discussion last month of a complaint alleging racial profiling by police. Its backers argue that more police officers who work in Evanston lived here, they might be better able to distinguish criminals from law-abiding residents on sight.

Only a minority of the city’s police officers and firefighters now live in Evanston.

City staff tonight will present a preliminary report on the concept. The report says that in other communities such programs for home buyers typically provide down-payment assistance, reduced mortgage interest rates or reduced settlement and administrative costs,

The down payment assistance typically ranges from $1,000 up to $5,000, and funds typically are allocated annually and awarded on a first-come-first-served basis or through a lottery.

Although the staff report doesn’t mention it, such “Live Near Your Work” programs in the Washington, D.C., metro area typically are also open to employees of other major employers — including universities and medical centers — with those employers contributing to the financial incentives.

And a similar program encourages workers at the University of Minnesota to live in neighborhoods near the campus.

The city staff report doesn’t provide any information on whether the programs actually result in more workers living in the targeted areas than would have happened without the incentives.

It will be up to aldermen to decide whether to move forward to develop a specific “Live Near Your Work” program for Evanston.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. the illogic of police residency and profiling reduction

    "Its backers argue that more police officers who work in Evanston lived here, they might be better able to distinguish criminals from law-abiding residents on sight."

    Understanding that profiling means stopping people because of racial appearance, let's examine this proposition first by restating it clearly:

    If we have police living in a community with black people, they will make friends with law abiding black people as their neighbors and, when on the job, will recognize these law abiding neighbors and distinguish them from the lawbreakers that share a superficial appearance with good citizens. The result will be less racial profiling.

    Can this stand up to logical examination?

    A police officer on the job is swimming in a vast public, the great majority of which he/she does not know, regardless of where the officer lives. The officer does know a subgroup of criminals well, by name even, and can spot them when arriving on the scene of a crime, or when the officer sees them on the street,  simply because the officer called to crime scenes gets to know repeat offenders.

    But apart from this small group of known offenders, other members of the public will be strangers to the officer.

    How many people do you know on your block or near where you live…25? 50 possibly? So it is and will be with any police officer living in Evanston.

    So when the officer is on the beat amid thousands upon thousands of strangers, will being able to subtract a group of 50 or even 100 known good neighbors recognized on sight put a dent in racial profiling?

    The proposal fails on the face of its premise.

    But it's worse than that because it will accomplish the opposite of what it hopes to achieve. Let's look at that.

    Where do policemen live? First of all, they know good parts of town and bad parts of town intimately, so can choose very carefully when deciding on a home. Secondly, they are better paid than almost any other public service workers and can more easily afford to live in a more expensive, lower crime neighborhood. This proposal of giving additional housing benefits will make this even more true.

    This makes it even more likely the officer will reside in a mostly white area of Evanston, where the psychology behind racial profiling will be emphasized, not diminshed.

    Council: please discard this truly counterproductive proposal.

    1. This will never work

      They should be placed in those areas where crime is high.  smh, this will never work.

  2. I’d like to understand why

    I'd like to understand why our police officers and firefighters choose not to live in in Evanston.

    If it's because of affordability, (our taxes are very high relative to surrounding areas, including our neighboring suburbs to the North such as Wilmette and Highland Park if I'm not mistaken) then, as a tax-paying citizen, council, I fully support this proposal. I'm not sure if it will help with the racial-profiling perspective, but on a more general civil front – my view is that the people who dedicate themselves to serving my community (black, white, blue, green…) should be able to afford to live in my community… Especially those who are regularly putting themselves in harms way by serving me.

    If they choose not to live in Evanston for other reasons, I'd be interested in learning about those, too.

    1. Why do 90% of firefighters live outside of Evanston?

      I totally understand why cops don't live in Evanston. They see bad guys at work and don't want to see the same ones when they take their kids to a park.

      But why do 9 of 10 Evanston firefighters live outside of Evanston? The median pay for them is much higher than that of the average person in Evanston?

    2. Re; I’d like to understand why

      There are numerous reasons they do not want to live here. 

      1) Evanston is taxing its way out of popularity. The sales, gas, property, vehicle, and other taxes make it more expensive that other areas.

      2) Cook County is the same. Residents of the collar counties pay a lot less in property taxes. Many cities in the collar counties do not have, or have low priced, city stickers. Gas taxes are running about twenty cents a gallon cheaper outside Cook County.

      3) Housing costs are a lot cheaper. A $500k house in Evanston can be bought for under $300k if you go 20 miles away and the property taxes will be about half as much.

      4) Insurance (car / house) is cheaper in the collar counties. 

      4) If you arrest people for a living, you probably make enemies. Do you want to run into the guy you arrested last night at Jewel while you are shopping with your spouse and kids? At least in Chicago, you can get a distance away from the area you patrol. Even in Chicago, there are areas that are clusters for police / fire employees. 

      5) Do you want the person you arrested last night knowing where you live? Do you want your family worrying about someone wanting to take revenge against you for doing your job? If you live in another town, your neighbors will probably know what you do for a living, but you will not be dealing with them on a personal and professional level. Some cities have given free housing to officers who were willing to live in high crime areas. Most of these programs failed. The officers houses were set on fire, their vehicles were vandalized, etc. 

      6) Do you do your job 24hrs a day? If you live in the town where you police, people will expect you to be on duty 24/7. I imagine the police would like to get away from the stress of their jobs when they leave work. Living in town makes that a lot harder. 

      There are countless other reasons officers do not care to live where they work, but cost and safety are the major issues.

      1. can you give some examples?

        You stated Some cities have given free housing to officers who were willing to live in high crime areas. Most of these programs failed. The officers houses were set on fire, their vehicles were vandalized, etc.

        can you give any examples?

        If things are that bad here, we have bigger problems than our council members and Mayor want to admit.

        Last Night I suggested just that, give major officiers, homes in areas with high crime, at large discounted prices.Council members rejected this thought. ofcourse they are in deinal that crime exists here.

        While I understand there would be few takers for such a program, it might be only single officers that were new hires, I see this as better than some blanket program that does nothing.

  3. I believe all city employees

    I believe all city employees should be required to live in Evanston.  We've subsidized lots of affordable housing, according to news reports.  Plenty of properties are on the market at lots of varied price points.

    When people go home from work, they tend to do their shopping and run their errands near home.  Especially on weekends, people complete errands near home.  Thus, everyone paid by the city and its agencies takes home a paycheck and spends some part of it near home — apparently in other towns if they aren't required to live here.

    Forget the subsidy idea.  Work here:  live here.

  4. Great Idea

    I had no clue that our polic/fire do not have a residency requirement like they do in the City.  It is a terrific idea and at a minimum causes these individuals to care and invest in the community.  It was great for the City and while you don't get to direct where they live with such a small community as Evanston it would be a great investiment in our people.  Not to mention ensuring we have solid middle class residents who are almost always terrific citizens.

    Good for our leadership for finally looking around for successful options!!

  5. Police will never live in Evanston – I can’t afford the taxes

    We have a great police force that is very responsive and they know we pay crazy tax bills. They are way too smart; pay a tax bill if you own a 250K condo in Chicago for 4K but live in Evanston and pay 10k.
    I think we should have them pay 5K from their check if they don’t live in Evanston and have that payment go forward the taxes of the police that will live in Evanston.

    Just a thought. 

    1. $10,000 in taxes on a $250K Condo?

      I doubt that there are too many of those in Evanston.  My ~$250,000 condo has a $3600/year tax bill, which I don't necessarily like, but which is hardly outrageous.  Nor is it enough to keep Evanston police and fire from living here in the city.

      1. Your tax bill on a $250k condo is only $3600 a year?

        Please provide PIN so I can call that Nick gentleman from the Assessor's office. My sub $250k condo carries nearly $6k a year in property taxes and that is after an appeal. Heck, there's a 2/2 on Redfin listed for 260k that has a tax bill in excess of 9k. I suspect your tax bill is not the norm. Do you get a senior exemption or are you in some area that has an abatement?

      2. Do not doubt

        Consider yourself lucky, but do not doubt Brian01.  $7-$9K in taxes is the norm.  You should do a quick search on any realtor site and put your doubts to rest.  Your condo may be an exception to the rule, or your are not giving us the full story.  Either way, Brian01 speaks the truth.

  6. comment tonight at council on SP2 – residency

    A funny thing happen at council , ECTV lost audio during citizen comment, wonder why?   I noticed Wally and the Mayor laughing.

    I raised the question that we should have large incentives for police officiers to live in the worst areas of town with the highest crime.  Council members did not like the fact I mentioned this. One council member wanted a survey done, and stated she did not want it white washed, ( she mention they might say the schools are bad)

    Do you really think they are going to release survey results of why the employees don't want to live here, they might claim high taxes, but the reality is they are not going to tell you the truth nor is Wally going to release it.

    Quess what staff proposed a $1,000 to $4,000 incentive,  really going to make you move here? or for that matter anywhere else? Looks like another lame response

    Wally did have one good idea, that some other workers need to be here also, but here again, the council thinks they need a program for everyone.

  7. Families and Stress

    If you were a police officer, would you want your children going to school with potential gang members and / or children of people that your parent had locked up? Since the bad guys know a lot of officers, they would have to be "on the job" even when they are off duty. Evanston is a great community, but allow those who work here to get away from job after their shift. Change of scenary as it were.

  8. Can’t fund police pensions, but now giving out money??

    So let me get this straight- The council last week argued over whether or not to contribute the amount suggested by the actuary to the city pension fund…. In order to fully fund, we'd have to raise taxes or cut services.

    And this week, they are talking about giving out money to encourage police to live in Evanston?

    So does this basically mean that we won't fully fund all the police officers pensions, but hopefully we'll get a few police to live here… so when the pension fund is bankrupt, maybe those Evanston-living police will help patrol the streets with no pension because they are "invested" in the town?

    Matt Groenig couldn't write scripts this good.



    1. Agree with your concerns but

      Agree with your concerns but residency requirement is a totally different animal.  Make a requirement for new hires.

  9. Yeah, the police already have

    Yeah, the police already have to deal with individuals in this city that do not like or appreciate them when they are in uniform.  So why don't we require them to live in this city and have their families be possible targets for those criminals and anti-police individuals.  I'm sure that the police want to go to the park or do their errands with the family on their time away from work and have to run into the same individuals they had to arrest the night before.  I think it is smart for police to be able to live elsewhere so they can have time to decompress from the stress they deal with day in and day out. 

  10. Black or white smoke?

    Just so I understand. As stated in the article, this incentive program "arose from a council discussion last month after a complaint alleging racial profiling of police."(by Mrs. Greenwel, the mother of a 13 year old).

    So let's invite our racist cops to become our neighbors? And what makes you think a cop would want to live in our "diverse, but segragated city" where in my life experience, race is more prevalent here than anywhere else in the Chicago area.

    Why would a police officer want to live next to someone like Mrs. Greenwell? Evanston prides itself on diversity, but take a look where the different races live. All white neighborhoods N/W, N/E, and S/E Evanston, all minority neighborhoods near the high school. Only diverse area may be S/W Evanston.

    We call on our cops to protect us, but think they are racist, so we offer them incentives to move here? What an insult to our police force! Not only do we think our cops are racist they must be really dumb too.

    Besides, 1K-4K on a 250K house wouldn't be enough to make an ant move. This idea will die down, just blowin white smoke while violent crime is in the spotlight, or is City Council blowin black smoke? Because you see my fellow Evanstonians, its always been a black/white issue in our community, but we blame our police for this part of our ugly history.

    We all want diverse schools for our children, but certainly got to be careful who our "neighbors" are. Could you imagine the outcry if one of these racist cops moves into a free home next to you? Good idea, poor reason for this to come about, just another jab at EPD.

  11. We have the pension-fund

    We have the pension-fund deficit.  With this possible project, the council can saddle not just current, but future, generations with the cost of sustaining their generosity, and they can add another deficit to the current one.  Of course, council members currently serving will seem like grandiose givers to staff paid to work in Evanston. 

  12. Best Incentive? Lower taxes.

    The best incentive to get more police officers to live in Evanston? Lower the property taxes so they can afford to live here.

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