More officers, more outreach: Evanston police lay out summer strategy

Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington speaks at a 5th Ward meeting last month. This summer, Evanston police are adding more officers to focus on the area.

Daily file photo Ciara McCarthy

Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington speaks at a 5th Ward meeting last month. This summer, Evanston police are adding more officers to focus on the area.

Ciara McCarthy, Summer Reporter

Evanston police are expanding their on-the-ground presence and community outreach efforts amid growing unease over the city’s gun violence, especially on the west side.

Shots fired last week near Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave., marked the second major flashpoint within a five-week period. The incident raised the ire of Ald. Jane Grover (7th), who was driving home near the intersection of Dodge Avenue and Church Street when she saw a man firing several shots a few hundred feet in front of her.

In an impromptu meeting with reporters days later, Grover said she was “irate” that “some idiot” thought he could get away with such brazen behavior at about 4 p.m. near one of west Evanston’s most crowded intersections.

(Evanston alderman says she witnessed gunplay near ETHS, urges community cooperation)

Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington presented his department’s most recent changes in strategy to City Council on Monday, highlighting an increased presence in the 5th Ward and larger focus on neighborhood relations.

“This plan is to work with the community it serves,” EPD Cmdr. Jay Parrott said in an email to The Daily. “The police department has an obligation to address crime but also has a duty to address social harm issues and assist by improving neighborhood living.”

So far this year, major crime is down 6.8 percent from the same period in 2012, Eddington said. Despite the decrease, community concerns about gun violence have surfaced over daytime gunfire May 7 near the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster St., and the fatal shooting of an Evanston man in Chicago less than a week later, as well as the shots fired near ETHS.

(Police: Evanston man killed in Chicago may have ties to local gun violence)

In response to the gun violence, EPD put in place its summer plan two weeks early, putting seven more officers on the street during the busiest times.

Eddington also announced the reorganization of the community strategies team, which has gained three additional officers and devoted two officers to focus on the 5th Ward, where recent gun violence has been concentrated. About half of calls about shots fired have come from the 5th Ward since the beginning of the year, according to a map of the reports released earlier this month by EPD.

Police also began increasing their practice of stop-and-frisk. EPD has avoided the widespread use of the controversial tactic in the past, but Eddington changed the department’s policy after a rash of gunplay last month near the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center.

“This level of violence and this use of guns is now out of control,” Eddington said May 16 at a 5th Ward meeting.

(Evanston police, community members discuss recent gun violence)

On Monday night, he described the policy change as a success, explaining that stop-and-frisk has deterred some people from carrying illegal guns. EPD’s implementation of stop-and-frisk has been informed by the Cook County sheriff’s gang unit, Eddington said.

EPD is also working to improve its community relations. It has created an additional victim advocate position that will be filled by a contract worker, Eddington said. The advocate will coordinate EPD’s relationship with Youth Organizations Umbrella in light of the new stop-and-frisk policy.

“They are welcoming us into their organization to begin to explain … to their clientele the impact of (stop-and-frisk) and the appropriate way to deal with those police actions if they feel that they have been inappropriately treated,” Eddington said.

EPD will also expand its use of social media by being more active on Twitter and tasking younger officers with leading the charge, Eddington said. The chief added he had an “epiphany” about the importance of social media after listening to Boston police officers describe their communications strategy for the marathon bombings at a recent conference.

In an email to residents Wednesday, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl highlighted EPD’s efforts to ensure a peaceful summer.

“A safe and engaging Evanston for all our youth is my priority and I hope you will make it your priority,” Tisdahl said. “Help keep the youth in your life engaged in productive activities year around be they educational, vocational or recreational.”

Patrick Svitek contributed reporting.

Summer reporter Ciara McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at