An Oak Park woman who made headlines in November after being targeted in an attempted carjacking is calling on the Village of Oak Park to improve lighting around the village.
Melissa Martinez told the Oak Park village board this month that two men attempted to take her car in late November but abandoned the effort when she pled with them to not drive off with her 3-year-old daughter who was in the backseat of the vehicle at the time.
“I’m here because I’m the mom who had the gun to her head with the three-year-old in her car two weeks ago,” she said. “I’m here because I think we need to fix it, talk about it. I want you to just imagine that it’s your wife or your child or your grandson … there’s a gun and somebody can take them away and do whatever the hell they want with their body.”
Martinez said at the Dec. 11 meeting that she had collected nearly 1,400 petition signatures backing her effort to better light village streets and alleys with LED lights and installing additional lights in darker areas.
She estimates such a project would cost the village $2.8 million.
Better lighting around the village is only part of the solution to deterring crime, she acknowledged, but said trustees should take the issue seriously.
“Everyone is telling me on Facebook and in my petition that if it’s not fixed, they are going to move out of this town,” she said.
Trustee Andrea Button commended Martinez for making her case for the lights publicly.
“It took a great amount of courage, and your comments were very moving to me,” Button said, adding that she takes the request seriously.
“I, too, am scared,” Button said. “I am a single mom, I live in an apartment and I park my car a block away from my home, so there’s risks involved for all of us.”
Oak Park resident Kitty Conklin said some blocks have as many as five different intensities of lighting. They should be updated and brought to a “decent standard,” she said.
Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb apologized to Martinez and told the board and public that “safety is the number-one priority for us, and we have determined as a board that in (the 2018) budget we made no cuts whatsoever to public safety.”
Abu-Taleb suggested the village consider using the roughly $500,000 available from the village’s Community Choice Aggregation Fund, which was created to help fund sustainability initiatives in the village, to improve lighting.
Using the funds for new lighting would save money and increase safety, Abu-Taleb said.
The Oak Park Police Department reports that it has made nine arrests connected to the 16 carjackings that have taken place in the village this year.