The Oak Park Police Department held a public meeting in December 2017 about the uptick in carjackings in the village over the course of the year. At the time Oak Park had experienced 16 carjackings during the year.
The number, while alarming, pales in comparison to the four carjackings that have taken place in the first few weeks of 2018 in Oak Park and one in River Forest – all five were at gunpoint.
The 2018 carjacking and carjacking attempts took place on:
- Jan. 2, in the 1100 block of South Harvey Avenue at 9:20 p.m.
- Jan. 11, in the 900 block of Belleforte Avenue at 9:30 p.m.
- Jan 16, in the first block of Pleasant Street at 8 a.m.
- Jan. 17, in the 1100 block of North Kenilworth at 6:30 p.m.
- Jan. 19, in the 500 block of Monroe Street in River Forest at 6 p.m.
Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb tells Wednesday Journal that “if somebody commits a crime on our streets, in our homes, in our shops, anywhere in our village, the police will not rest until they are prosecuted.”
“We treat everybody with respect and dignity; we don’t want to violate anyone’s civil rights, but we have a job to do, and job number one is to keep our community safe,” he said, noting that the carjackings have become increasingly common throughout the Chicago area.
Oak Park police are working to bolster their efforts hiring five new patrol officers in recent weeks, bringing the police force to 116 sworn officers.
While residents are scared and looking for answers on how to stay safe, many in the village also have voiced concerns that information from the OPPD has not been quick enough.
Oak Park Police Chief Anthony Ambrose confirmed in an email that the police department is considering establishing Twitter and Facebook accounts to better communicate with the public.
“This includes researching how police in other communities are using these social media tools to communicate with residents,” Ambrose said. “If we are to take on this added responsibility, we want to do it right and provide a useful service.
“Reaching out to our peers in other communities may help avoid any potential negative impacts in an effort to inform residents quickly could have unintentionally on investigations or future prosecutions. Anything police post likely will be considered part of the official public record.”
Meanwhile both Oak Park and River Forest police departments have scheduled public meetings to further educate residents about crime in the village. OPPD meetings will be held at:
- Tuesday, Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Oak Park and River Forest High School north cafeteria, 201 N. Scoville Ave.
- Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m. at Oak Park Village Hall, 123 Madison St., room 201
- Thursday, Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Oak Park Main Fire Station, 100 N. Euclid Ave.
- Friday, Feb. 2 at 9:30 a.m. at Oak Park Village Hall, 123 Madison St., room 201
Police will share crime statistics and other topics such as street lighting, surveillance cameras, according to an OPPD press release.
“High visibility is a key strategy to prevent crime,” Ambrose said in the press release. “That’s why the numbers of marked cars patrolling our streets and alleys have increased significantly over recent weeks. But plain clothes officers in unmarked police cars are deployed strategically as well to make neighborhoods safer by having officers on the street observing, without being detected.”
River Forest also has scheduled a series of meetings over the course of the year. Those meetings, all of which will take place at River Forest Village Hall, 400 Park Ave., will be held:
- Wednesday, Jan. 24, from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
- Wednesday, April 25, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, July 25, from 10 to 11:30 a.m.
- Wednesday, Oct. 24, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.