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What’s next for Evanston police?

As city leaders prepare to gather for a farewell celebration for Police Chief Frank Kaminski tonight at the Levy Center, residents are talking about what they’d like to see in the city’s next chief.


As city leaders prepare to gather for a farewell celebration for Police Chief Frank Kaminski tonight at the Levy Center, residents are talking about what they’d like to see in the city’s next chief.

At least in the far southeast corner of town, some folks are saying they want to see a lot more emphasis on busting people for quality of life offenses.

Chief Kaminski in bike patrol regalia at a bike-to-work event this spring.

Since his promotion to the chief’s job on Oct. 14, 1996, Kaminski has led the police force through a period that’s seen the local crime rate drop by nearly 60 percent.

The FBI crime index for Evanston in 2005 stood at 42 incidents per thousand residents.

Nationwide since 1997 the crime rate dropped about 20 percent to 40 incidents per thousand in 2004, the last year for which complete national data is available.

The chief has given much of the credit for the drop in crime here to building partnerships with community groups and having officers work with neighbors to solve community problems, in addition to responding to emergency calls.

It’s easy to find high-income, fast-growing, outer-suburban communities with dramatically lower crime rates than Evanston. For example, Naperville, where City Manager Julia Carroll worked before taking her new job here, has half as much crime per capita.

But if you compare older, more diverse towns that, like Evanston, are home to major universities, the picture is more mixed. Some, like Ann Arbor, Mich., have less crime than Evanston, others, like Berkeley, Calif., have far more.

Kristin Doll, writing on the 8th Ward message board after a gathering of neighbors last night, said, “It’s very important to deal with infractions that may seem minor, but are both quality-of-life issues and behaviors that create an atmosphere in which worse things can occur.”

“Such behaviors,” she added, “include curfew violations, loud stereos and stationary and moving vehicles, loud groups of people, people double-parking in the streets, and littering, just to name a few.”

While Ms. Doll said she believes Chief Kaminski did a good job on those issues, others were more critical.

John Hardy said, “There are plenty of laws and ordinances on the books, the police need to start enforcing them.”

“I have great respect” for the police, Mr. Hardy said, adding that the problems are very complex. “But sufficient law enforcement is essential, and not enough is being done in Evanston.”

Paradoxically, while the neighhors in 8th ward were talking about cracking down on some quality of life violation, the city’s Parking Committee last night was talking about lightening up a bit on other rules.

Aldermen on the committee praised a staff plan to provide improved training for parking enforcement officers to make them more sensitive to citizen concerns.

Aldermen noted complaints about officers giving tickets to someone parked just six inches into a no parking zone or who had left their cars briefly at an elementary school loading zone to deliver their youngsters to school personnel.

Chief Kaminski, while he’s leaving the city payroll, won’t be going far. His new job will be head of security at Evanston Township High School.

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