Carjackings rising fast in 2018

Oak Park mayor promises vigilance, police schedule public meetings

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

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.



Reader Comments

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Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 24th, 2018 6:53 PM

Bryan: I was thinking the same thing: you (meaning the driver) in essentially in control of a 4000 pound weapon. Yes, if this keeps up, someone is going to get steam rolled.

Jenna Brown Russell  

Posted: January 24th, 2018 2:01 PM

I believe the police are, appropriately, assuring the community that if they receive a description of a suspect such as a 'young, black male in dark pants and a hoodie', that does not mean they will harass all young men fitting such a description. We frequently, as citizens, work very hard not to profile, to the point where we hesitate reporting suspicious behavior if we fear it may be influenced by gender, age, race or attire. The police should treat all suspects with respect, restraint and dignity. Because we are all innocent until proven guilty, and there will be many cases of mistaken identification. I think this point regarding civil liberty protection is an important one to make in our village.

Bill Kopper from Oak Park  

Posted: January 24th, 2018 9:58 AM

I don't think dignity and respect are the right words. If, in fact, these are minors I think we need to approach them with "concern and forgiveness." They need to understand the fear they caused and they need to pay for their crime. A progressive village might also track the perps to see if they actually have the opportunity to turn their life around and if they make the effort. WJ should keep a running chart on the status of the carjackings and how they are resolved in the courts.

Bryan Rekar from Oak park  

Posted: January 24th, 2018 8:47 AM

I believe this rash of carjackings will end very quickly once they make the mistake of attempting to victimize the wrong person. Very simply put, it will only take one gangster to be hit and steamrolled with a car to end this epidemic. I'm smart enough to know that every situation is different. However, the common theme is that people panic in these situations instead of realizing they are in an approximately three thousand pound vehicle with a horn and the capability of accelerating to a high rate of speed in seconds. The other common theme is that nobody has been shot and killed, and the only instance of a gun being discharged at all, based on my readings, is one of the recent stories when the gangster shot while he was running away (don't recall if this was the Kenilworth or Belliforte case). These gangsters are spineless cowards. Every night when I back the car into the garage, I am aware of my surroundings. I'm protecting my family and property, and I hope all able bodied men in Oak Park and RF are doing the same. It doesn't take CCL to protect yourself. It only takes some gumption and courage.

Rob Ruffulo  

Posted: January 23rd, 2018 5:26 PM

This is a political ad in how to say all the right things from the Textbook. Treat these animals with "dignity and respect". ??

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 23rd, 2018 2:34 PM

You're absolutely correct Alex. I think the Mayor - who is a very smart man - is just playing politics. I mean what else could he possibly say: "hey this is the reality: I and the police really can't do a damn thing. Basically, you're on your own. Get a CCL." Sure that's the reality. But he can't say that. He knows that the gangs "employ" juveniles to procure their product - cars. And the gangs do this precisely because there is no risk to the higher ups and quite frankly little risk to the so called offenders - as you point out. Hey those kids are even up for a gang "promotion."

Alex Garcia  

Posted: January 23rd, 2018 1:44 PM

Mayor Abu-Taleb's comments about not resting until crimes are prosecuted are sort of cute, in a naive kind of way. The reality is that even if the police catch 'em, the Cook Co. State's Attorney won't always prosecute. Even if they are prosecuted, the revolving door court system releases them on recognizance bonds or early release for "time served".

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