Proposed ordinance would expand police power near ETHS

ETHS security director Sam Pettineo and District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon explained a proposed ordinance that would create a

Ciara McCarthy/The Daily Northwestern

ETHS security director Sam Pettineo and District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon explained a proposed ordinance that would create a "safe school zone" around ETHS. They discussed the ordinance Thursday night at the quarterly City-School Liaison Committee meeting.

Ciara McCarthy, Assistant City Editor

School and city officials discussed Thursday a proposed safety ordinance that would expand police authority around Evanston Township High School.

The provision would allow police to step in before a situation escalates to violence, Evanston Police Department Chief Richard Eddington said at the quarterly City-School Liaison Committee meeting at the Joseph E. Hill Education Center, 1500 McDaniel Ave.

The proposed ordinance takes advantage of an Illinois law that permits municipalities to create “safe school zones” in areas near schools, in which police officers can arrest threatening individuals who refuse to leave the zone upon police request.

The city and ETHS would work together to decide the boundaries of the zone, but it would ideally extend from the edge of the high school campus to the sidewalks across the street, District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said. The proposed ordinance would target gang members and drug dealers, whom he said are the two biggest threats to student safety.

“We’ll literally some days have two different factions walking up two different sides of the sidewalk facing off, and that’s when it’s really helpful,” Witherspoon said.

The ordinance is scheduled to come before the Evanston City Council for approval in the coming weeks. Officials also addressed concerns that the proposed ordinance between the city and ETHS would encroach into the neighborhood. Witherspoon maintained that, if passed, the ordinance would only extend to the sidewalks around ETHS property and would only be enforced “in the event that there seems to be a threatening situation.”

ETHS security director Sam Pettineo said the ordinance would allow police to remove individuals who might threaten the safety of students.

“What ends up happening is that when there’s gang drama going on in the area, our kids will come out of the building,” he said. “Kids waiting to fight our kids will be standing across the street. The fight converges in the center of the street and we have no way to abate that without the safe school zone.”

Under the proposed ordinance, a first violation would result in a citation, and after a second violation, police would have the authority to arrest the alleged offender.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Superintendent Hardy Murphy said District 65 would consider drafting a similar ordinance at the school board’s next meeting.

Officials also discussed lighting expansion on the ETHS campus. The council will review the budget for the light expansion May 20. The proposed lighting expansion would cost about $75,000, public works director Suzette Robinson said.