Monday, September 8, 2008

Sept. Coffee with the Chief

It wasn't the Fourth of July, but there were plenty of fireworks tonight at the Woodstock (Ill.) Police Station. Tonight was the monthly Coffee with the Chief that Chief Bob Lowen holds. He must have thought he was wearing a smock with those familiar red-and-white circles on it; you know the one ... Target?

Thanks to the ladies from Senior Services Associates, who yielded the floor to the residents. The program on Elder Abuse will be presented at a date to be re-scheduled. What was all the excitement (if you want to call it that) about tonight?

Last Thursday morning (day corrected to Thursday on 9/10/08), about 9:00 or 10:00AM, a woman who lives near Fremont and South Jefferson walked out her back door and found a man hiding in her bushes with a gun. She screamed at him and ran back into her house. A neighbor heard her scream and saw the man running.

From there on, there are about as many stories as there are people in Woodstock.

In an email to me at 10:41AM the man was described as African American, wearing a red and blue sweatshirt and hip/hop baggy style shorts.

People at the meeting said the victim positively identified the man from a mugshot on the in-car computer of a police car.

Chief Lowen said the victim was driven by the suspect, who may live in the neighborhood, but could not identify him. Others said she was petrified that the suspect might see her in the police car and come back to harm her.

One neighbor said there were five marked police cars at the victim's house for ten minutes, instead of more quickly being driven through the neighborhood to apprehend the suspect.

Of all the Coffees I've attended since Chief Lowen came to town over two years ago, this one was the most active. People are concerned, and they want to know what to do.

"Lock your car doors," says Chief Lowen. Most car burglaries are from unlocked cars.

But people want to know more. OK, so, short of sitting on your front porch with your shotgun across your lap (and you'd better not do that!), what can you do?

"Neighborhood Watch" was mentioned. Woodstock currently has a requirement that about 80% of the neighborhood must agree to participate before Woodstock P.D. will assist in creating a Neighborhood Watch program. When I suggested lowering the percentage, one resident asked why there would even have to be a minimum percentage. Good question!

Lock your doors. Turn on porch and back lights. Close your garage door. Right; these are all good ideas. What else?

When you see a suspicious person or activity, call the police. Right away! Don't wait. This will work. When the bad guys realize that neighbors are watching, they'll go elsewhere. When they realize that everyone in Woodstock is watching, they'll go elsewhere; and then it will be some other town's problem.

If it's important, dial (815) 338-2131; program this number into your home phone and your cell phone. And it's urgent, dial 9-1-1.

When you see a suspicious vehicle, get the license number and be able to describe it. Take your dog for a walk and stroll right by. Stop and write down the license number. Notice if the same numbers are on the front and back plates. Then move on. Do not confront the occupants. If you have any concerns, just go to any house and ask for the police to be called; you don't even need to go back to your own home.

The police chief promised to look into improving the P.D. website after some residents asked for some type of Crime Alert system. He'll be in for a big fight at City Hall for dollars to do that. I suggested that the P.D. start its own blog; let the officers post crime information themselves. I suggested blocking comments, but now I think that allowing comments (information, tips, etc.) could be a good idea. They could be moderated at the P.D. to filter out the crackpots.

One resident asked several times why the principal at Dean St. School wasn't notified, so he could decide whether to lock down the school. Let's see; man with a gun - three blocks from the school. Seems a reasonable precaution to me.

Many today wanted more information. No information reached the public about Friday morning's incident. There was nothing in the Northwest Herald on Saturday, Sunday or this morning.

If you don't talk about crime in Woodstock, there isn't any. Yeah, sure...


woodstockmom said...

I too agree that there should be NO minimum to this neighborhood watch program. Any eyes are better than the "look away because you don't have enough of a percentage" approach! COME ON!!! Especially as a mother. And quite frankly I would be rather enraged if I knew that the school my children attended wasn't under lock down as well. What is the fear with being cautious??? That the relaxed environment will be breached? In my opinion if there was a wide scale threat there should have been some opportunity for "drills" at least.

Kyle S. said...

Maybe its time for a new Police Chief, City Manager, or Mayor.