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Police Chief: "You Can't Sit on the Sidelines"

Evanston Chief of Police Richard Eddington answers columnist Christine Wolf's questions about crime in Evanston, and encourages all residents to get involved.

After two fatal shootings in less than three months, I had several questions about crime in Evanston. So I sat down with Police Chief Richard Eddington to ask him about the police presence around the high school, what police are doing to stop gang violence and whether guns could be banned in Evanston, among other questions.

Part one of my interview with the chief was published Tuesday; here is the second part of our conversation.

Do you think crime has increased in Evanston in the past several years? If so, why?

Overall Evanston’s crime rate is actually going downward, according to Eddington. He bases that statement on the Evanston Police Department’s most recent annual report, available online, and on the frequency of eight “index” crimes that local law enforcement agencies report to the FBI each year. Authorities measure the crime rate in a community based on the incidence of murder, criminal sexual assault, robbery, aggravated battery/assault, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

While it’s too early to make a comparison between 2011 and 2012, the 2011/2010 numbers, according to the city’s website, back up Eddington’s statement that crime is decreasing in Evanston.

From 2010 to 2011, the murder rate was reduced by 40 % (5 in 2010 to 3 in 2011) and the number of aggravated battery & assaults went down by 23.8 % (126 in 2010 to 96 in 2011). Police responded to 129 calls of shots fired in 2011, compared to 180 calls of shots fired in 2010.

“We’re driven to minimize crimes by putting police resources in the best places,” Eddington said. “Crime is numerically forced down by active citizenry and police intervention.”

For example, he says, the Evanston police have worked closely with fast food delivery personnel, who have been the victims of several robberies lately. And when Daylight Savings Time ends, Eddington explains, police are more prominent in and around elevated train stations, since purse-snatchers take advantage of minimized light.

Do you believe there's anything police could have been doing to prevent the two recent homicides?

 “When we talk about issues like this, we need to consider community expectations, values and context,” he said. “Justin’s case and Dajae’s case are both related to protracted feuds between two families, not random acts of violence. There’s a context there.”

“In terms of community expectations…the city of Evanston has an extremely open manner of community input and critique of police operations. Even if we could afford to place an officer on every block, would the community accept that? Would it necessarily improve the quality of life?”

As for values, Eddington said that’s where community members need to step in. Rather than threatening to move to another suburb, he believes they should stick it out and work to improve Evanston. “Having moved several times [myself], it’s traumatic and a lot of work,” he said. “The reality is, we’re better served making a commitment to channeling energies. No place is immune to this.” After a 38-year police career, Eddington adds, “This is not escapable. In my opinion, there’s no place to run.”

What would you say to people who feel all hope is lost in Evanston? To those who feel the only way to avoid the violence here is to leave?

“I’m sensitive to that,” Eddington said. “I also can’t become jaded by these crises. People who don’t do this for a living – whether it’s a friend or a parent or a neighbor or a peer – I completely understand [your frustration], and it’s part of the grieving process. Sometimes it needs to be said, to get it off our chests. I’d like to emphasize the significant number of resources we have, and to stress that the city is committed to changing this dynamic.”

Eddington pointed to the Mayor’s Safe Summer Initiative, as an example of successful government intervention.

“She changed how we deliver recreational services…by the force of her will, she used the moral bully pulpit, offering services in the evening when they’re not [typically] offered,” he said. “I also point to her revamping outreach: she took a political risk, but you need someone who’s been there and done that."

But what Eddington really wants to say to disheartened Evanstonians is this: “I want people to become involved. … You can’t sit on the sidelines. My coach always said, ‘Get your glove on and get in the game.’"

After answering all my questions, the chief has one of his own: “The question is, how do we make it better for everyone?”

Need a place to start? Here’s a great one.

Jim Osburn December 06, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Does the EPD still offer the citizen ride-along program? It would be valuable for civilians to see and feel what a beat cop deals with. Also, it would be healthy for cops to deal with ordinary people instead of suspects and victims.
Soxwinagain December 07, 2012 at 12:39 AM
The Police Chief should QUIT
Soxwinagain December 07, 2012 at 12:52 AM
It seems that the Evanston police are so MEDIA hungry that they will charge innocent people of any crime they can including MURDER... The Evanston police will frame, lie and arrest anyone to just get on the news and make it look like Evanston is still the Evanston we all once lived in and it's safe. It is clear that the eye witness did not I'D John bamberg at 12:30 a.m. or at 2:40 a.m. because she did not know him and was not there. She I'd him after being shown pictures of him by the police and people who thought he did it. If she I'd him at 2:40 a.m. while the body was still on dodge why did they not go to Bamberg's house until Monday with four officers and all they asked was to speak to him and his cousin. There are many witnesses including his family and attorneys as well that were willing to testify that the bogus ID was made at 2:40 pm the next day but because the defense attorney could not put the state on trial against itself they could not argue that "EVANSTON POLICE CLAIMED IT WAS A TYPO" BULL SHIT! An officer (Nieman) "LIED" under oath stating John told him his height and when the defense attorney DEMANDED the court play the tape from interigation the officer then tried to CHANGE the story just to get a conviction.... Officers testified that out of the 20 cops that had access to the eye witness that night not one of them asked the description of Bird or John Bamberg... REALLY? That's BULL SHIT they FRAMED HIM! In the end the ENTIRE STORY WILL BE TOLD.
Soxwinagain December 07, 2012 at 01:00 AM
At the time deputy chief cook was on the scene at Johns second accident ... John had 22 or 23 screws with plates holding the comminuted fractures together. A doctor testified to the fact that John could not run. Did you know that his pockets were pulled inside out after he was killed? the eye witness robbed him and lied to the grand jury as well. They couldn't wait for his medical records before charging him for a crime that he did not commit.... THEY FRAMED HIM..
Soxwinagain December 07, 2012 at 01:34 AM
One more thing the three lies that she told about knowing who John was... One was he was walking and threatening Marcus as they road by when Marcus threatening John. All the lies she told saying it was John when it was really Marcus threatening John, she was not there she heard about it. If she were telling the truth why on the stand could she not give a description of John? It was all a lie...

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