Residents discussed responses from more police on the street to more social service programs for young people at Tuesday night’s 5th Ward meeting in Evanston.
The online meeting was held in the wake of the shooting of five teenagers at a gas station on Green Bay Road Sunday.
Deputy Police Chief Jody Wright said the department is working on plans, despite recent reductions in staffing, to rework schedules to have “more officers on the street than we’ve had in the past 10 years.”
Audrey Thompson, the city’s community services manager, said the city has been increasing free programming for young people at the new Robert Crown Community Center and plans to add more.
Thompson said that as an immediate response to the shootings that left a 17-year-old youth dead and four other teens hospitalized, there will be a balloon release at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Mobil gas station at 1950 Green Bay Road where the shootings occurred followed by two healing circles at the nearby Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, one at 5:15 p.m., the other at 7 p.m.
Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) said he and Alds. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) and Devon Reid (8th) are calling a special City Council meeting for Monday, Dec. 20, to discuss what else the city can do to provide support for young people as a way to deter them from turning to violence.
He said he adding more community services programs would be a key focus of that session.
Several speakers at the meeting, including former Ald. Delores Holmes and Officer Adam Howard of the police department’s problem solving team said there is a need to revive block club organizations across the community that help people look out for their neighbors.
“A lot of young men have fathers absent — incarcerated or deceased,” Howard said. “We need to work together to strengthen our young people, so they don’t feel threatened stepping outside of their homes”
Wright said what happened Sunday “is one of the worst crimes I’ve seen in 20 years as a police officer in this community.”
He said new devices that can be put on handguns make them still easy to conceal but able to operate like a machine gun — “in five seconds they can shoot 30 rounds.”
In police stops now, he said, “we arrest people with pistols and magazines or clips that carry 30 rounds and drums that carry 50 rounds.”
“It’s something we have to figure out how to combat,” he added.
Monique Parsons, president of the McGaw YMCA, said her background is in juvenile justice, “so I’m concerned about those who have the guns and are hardest to reach, but I am also concerned about those who don’t have guns but now are traumatized and feel they have to have one.”
She asked whether city resources “that I believe were stripped away through the budgeting process will now become a priority.”
If coalitions come together to prevent violence from happening, Parsons asked, “will they get the resources they need and will it be a long-lasting priority?”