Violent crime impacts the families of Evanston far too often. Despite the excellent work of the Evanston Police Department, the City’s Youth and Young Adult Division and our partners throughout the community, acts of violence continue. I am writing today to give you an update on the City of Evanston’s efforts to combat violent crime and to ask for your help and support of these efforts.
The Evanston Police Department has responded to the recent upsurge of handgun violence by forming a Gun Recovery Team comprised of officers extremely familiar with the individuals participating in the armed conflict and with the neighborhoods in which the violence has occurred. Working a minimum of eight hours per day, the Gun Recovery Team is guided by the HEAT map, a compilation of shots fired and other gun-related calls located within a square-mile grid. Its efforts are augmented by members of the Problem Solving Team and Foot Patrol, who use the HEAT map to actively engage residents in the affected area in knock-and-talks and who visit businesses, schools, parks and places of worship to contact citizens who may have direct knowledge about gun-related crime.
In addition, the Police Department’s Gun Buyback Program now operates on a daily basis in order to gain control of unwanted guns as quickly as possible. Reasons for a daily program include (1) unattended firearms may fall into the wrong hands during a burglary to a home or into the hands of children, often with tragic results; (2) it is unrealistic to expect people to wait six months to relinquish an unwanted firearm; and (3) a daily program is fiscally responsible, in that it involves no overtime.
Certainly the community is safer when unwanted firearms are taken out of circulation. For the reasons given, I believe turning in unwanted firearms is a win-win for the program and for the community. The Evanston Police Department continues to collect unwanted guns every day. Please feel free to call 3-1-1 to arrange for a member of the Problem Solving Team to finalize arrangements for transfer of a weapon to the department.
Active law enforcement efforts are only part of the solution. Staff from the City’s Youth and Young Adult Division work every day with young people who find themselves without jobs or enrolled in post-high school education programs needing assistance. This past summer, the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program employed 550 Evanston youth, a 9 percent increase over 2014, with over 20 unique Evanston employers. These staff members are not in offices in the Civic Center, but instead are out in the community every day working one-on-one with individuals. Division staff helps these young people find jobs, enroll in education programs, and, in some cases, assists them in relocating from Evanston for a fresh start.
So what can you do to help make Evanston a safer place? First, if you know of individuals involved in criminal activities, let the Police Department know. So often I hear from residents that they know the people committing violent crimes, but unless individuals come forward, criminal charges cannot be filed against these offenders. Second, if you can help provide young Evanston men and women jobs, let us know. Call 3-1-1 and ask to be connected to our Youth and Young Adult Division staff. They will help put you in touch with people who need jobs. Finally, make sure you are getting the most up-to-date and accurate information about the City’s efforts to combat violent crime. The City sends regular updates via e-mail as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Sign up to get these updates. More information can be found at cityofevanston.org, or by calling 3-1-1.
Keeping Evanston safe is everyone’s business. Many of us are working every day to make sure Evanston remains a safe place to live, raise a family, work and recreate. Please join me in these efforts.
Elizabeth B. Tisdahl