Deborah Foster-Bonner stops in front of a boarded-up corner store near 83rd and Eberhart. It’s shut down now, in part, because of pressure from the community patrol she’s a part of.I know there are questions to ask about this group and this article answers some of them:
It’s a gray, dreary, rainy Saturday morning. But a patrol of six trudges along with their umbrellas. They wear neon yellow security vests and whistles around their necks. They do wellness checks on neighbors they haven’t seen in days. They monitor apartment buildings that have caused havoc in their Chatham community. They follow up with absentee landlords. They are a presence.
"We’re trying to do something that a block club can’t. There’s 12 blocks that are coming together. By that, we’ve got numbers. We’re seeking issues that will affect our lives across the lines of individual block clubs," Foster-Bonner said.
This neighborhood, long an oasis of the middle class, has seen its share of an uptick in crime across Chicago. And this year, in the 6th District, murders and theft are up from last year. Narcotic sales top the list of recorded community concerns. These residents are fed up.
Residents received formal training just a few months ago from Richard Wooten. He’s a Chicago police officer in this district who gives free neighborhood watch education. Wooten was a liaison to Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) a popular program.Also noted that the woman pictured above Ms. Bonner Foster she said that this group is out three days a week and sometimes out as late as 3 AM. That's dedication, isn't it?
"The CAPS program has been slowly deteriorating and communities still wanting to do something out there but the department wasn’t giving them latitude nor the access they use to have to make it happen," Wooten said.
Wooten isn’t training vigilantes or crime fighters with imaginary capes. He gives stern advice.
"Don’t put yourself in a situation that’s going to cause you to be harmed in any way," he said. "Always go out in pairs. If we know this house is a big drug house, there’s a way to watch that drug house and a way to report it. Don’t actually try to interfere with the process."
And Wooten instructs neighbors to be bold in a different way.
"When the dope boys are on the corner, stand out there and speak to them, talk with them," he said. "They don’t want no company. They gonna leave your block."
Wooten has worked with several groups in Chatham and West Chesterfield. He says he hopes to spread the training to places like Park Manor and Auburn-Gresham.
Greater Chatham Alliance often notes that they have their safety patrols so I wonder if this is part of that?
Also not to say that GCA is part of this or anything you have some like Worlee who might view this as merely political. Wooten - who was quoted in this article - himself has attempted to run for three political offices from Alderman to Democratic Committeeman to State Representative. Who knows he may try again to run for Alderman in 2015 but that's going on two years away?
Finally, security patrols aren't necessarily a bad idea. It's great that Chicago Public Radio has brought this activity to light letting the city know that there are people on the South Side of Chicago who truly care about their community. Enough to care about their neighbors and keep an eye out for suspicious activities.
EDIT: According to Worlee the patrols portrayed in this WBEZ article is actually organized by the new Reunite Chatham organization!