Ward residents want more police presence

CHICAGO On Friday, Superintendent Jody Weis sat down with the local alderman and other community leaders to talk about ways to stop the violence.

Part of the 2nd Ward, which begins on the lakefront, is bracing itself for big crowds expected for Saturday's Venetian Night program. Weis was in the ward Friday morning in his higher profile effort to calm citywide concerns about rising crime and violence.

For the second Friday in a row, the superintendent took his anti-violence campaign directly to the public. On Friday morning, he met nearly 100 2nd Ward residents at a breakfast sponsored by Alderman Bob Fioretti.

"If we had this in every ward, we will reclaim this city. We won't be having the issues," said Fioretti.

"It has to be face-to-face interaction with the officers, citizens. We need the citizens' cooperation," Weis said.

The 2nd Ward is one of the city's most diverse and complex. It stretches from downtown and the gentrified South Loop, where Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley lives, to some of the city's poorest and most crime-ridden neighborhoods on the West Side.

Margo Drousias says she believes her lakefront end of the ward is safe, but she worries about criminals commuting there.

"There's a lot of young children being raised in this neighborhood and eventually somebody could come through with a gun and approach a child, kill a child," Drousias said.

Downtown shootings after the July 3 fireworks display confirmed the worst fears of many South Loop residents. For this weekend's Venetian Night show, police are promising more visible patrols to inhibit any new outbreaks of violence in or near the Loop.

"Nationwide we have seen an uptick in crime. We have to push it back down," said Weis.

But residents of the 2nd Ward's West Side neighborhoods don't want police overly concerned for safety at another downtown event.

"Don't take all of the protection out of the community to shift downtown, wherever it may be," said Rev. W.H. Foster, West Side resident.

Police have insisted for years and they continue to say that their deployment strategies for downtown events do not leave the neighborhoods less protected. Many residents remain unconvinced, especially when they see cops on virtually every corner downtown during a big lakefront event.

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