By Megan Dooley
Representatives of Community Justice Center Westside from the Cook County State's Attorney's Office joined forces with members of the Oak Park Police Department, village staff, and the Madison Street Business Association to stage a walking tour of Madison Street businesses last week, to make their presence known to local business owners.
The Westside branch of the Community Justice Center has been operating on the first block of West Chicago Avenue in Oak Park for just over a year, and tour leader Kelly Navarro said the purpose of the Aug. 25 tour was to inform local business owners about the center, and to begin developing strategies for crime prosecution and prevention.
"We'd like to get out and see the businesses," Navarro said, and also to help business owners feel more comfortable reaching out to people at the Community Justice Center and to the police. "If they've got a problem with crime, we want to know about it."
The tour began along the first block of Madison, where a number of business owners and supervisors reported that they generally see crimes like panhandling and retail theft. One owner said there was a recent spike in thefts of catalytic converters from cars parked in their parking lot.
Many business owners sang the praises of Oak Park police Officer Robert Primak, a tour participant and the area Resident Beat Officer, whom they said is helpful and responsive in tackling crime.
Others said they didn't know about the Community Justice Center prior to the walking tour and were happy to hear about another resource for addressing crime.
"It's good to know we've got something like this around," said Mary Jackson, manager of America's Financial Choice, located near the corner of Madison and Austin.