Evanston Police talk social media, crime prevention with residents

Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington (left) listens while Cmdr. Jay Parrott (right) talks to residents during Wednesday's crime beat meeting focusing on wards one, three, four and seven.

Ciara McCarthy/The Daily Northwestern

Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington (left) listens while Cmdr. Jay Parrott (right) talks to residents during Wednesday's crime beat meeting focusing on wards one, three, four and seven.

Ciara McCarthy, Assistant City Editor

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The Evanston Police Department discussed panhandling, crime prevention tactics and Text-a-Tip with about 30 residents during its first community beat meeting of the year Wednesday night.

Cmdr. Jay Parrott started the meeting at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., explaining that beat meetings will seek to engage the public and get feedback from residents.

Officers Ron Blumenberg, who works primarily in the 1st and 7th wards, and Francesca Henderson, who works within the 3rd and 4th wards, addressed crimes specific to those beats. Henderson said the crimes in these areas are mostly burglaries and thefts. The officers emphasized most burglaries are crimes of opportunity and presented tips for residents to follow to protect themselves.

Police address crime through weekly internal meetings that collect and analyze data to deploy police manpower accordingly, Parrott said. In addition, they identify problematic areas where crime is frequent and where police patrol is increased.

Officers also discussed security issues central to downtown, namely panhandling and bike riding on sidewalks. Several residents expressed concerns about aggressive panhandling in the downtown area, and Blumenberg highlighted Evanston’s anti-panhandling ordinance, which restricts the places and the manner in which people may panhandle in the city. Blumenberg encouraged those experiencing aggressive panhandling to report to the Evanston 311 line.

Officers from University Police were also present at the meeting to discuss issues relevant to off-campus safety, such as noise disturbances and underage drinking. Blumenberg said EPD and UP have increased cooperation over the last several years to address off-campus security problems.

Mary Cox, an Evanston resident who lives near campus, confirmed UP and EPD have been more effective in the last two years at responding to off-campus noise complaints and underage drinking.

“I think that students are more aware of the consequences of their actions and what their responsibilities are as citizens of a community,” she said.

Ald. Jane Grover (7th) agreed off-campus student and resident relations have improved in recent years, and she said she worked closely with Blumenberg to address off-campus parties — in particular to prepare for Dillo Day.

Police will also work to communicate more with the public using technology and social media, Parrott said. EPD is looking to create a Twitter handle, and police will begin releasing weekly maps that identify crimes geographically. Parrott said the map would be easily accessible by smartphone so Evanston residents could learn about crimes quickly and conveniently.

He also highlighted the police’s Text-a-Tip program, through which residents can send anonymous tips to police. Parrott told The Daily these anonymous tips are used most often in crimes that have already been reported and are frequently related to drug sales.

Beat meetings for the wards will continue in the next week, Parrott said, with a potential for each beat to hold a gathering several times a year.