EVA President’s Message

by Mary Szpur

The shootings that occurred over the last summer in our community spurred some East Village residents to come to EVA meetings looking for more information, for answers on how the neighborhood would respond, for an opportunity to publicly voice frustration and concerns, or for assurances from local authorities that these incidents were not being ignored.

One outcome was that the EVA Board requested that EVA members attend the Beat 1322 September CAPS meeting to discuss these incidents—and indeed, many EVA members attended that meeting as a "show of force," to quote one EVA Board member. Both 1st Ward Alderman Flores and 32nd Ward Alderman Waguespack attended the CAPS meeting as well. Several neighborhood residents at the CAPS meeting offered suggestions for dealing with these problems on a grassroots level.

Of note, Alderman Flores stated that our neighborhood is essentially safe, and that the events of this summer were an anomaly. Whether or not you agree with the Alderman (I do in fact agree with him), constant vigilance is important no matter where you live. Things change when you don’t pay attention.

Another outcome was a discussion of how residents can deal with crime on a block-by-block level: meeting your neighbors so you recognize faces and know each other, exchanging telephone numbers with people on your block, removing graffiti immediately (call 311 and ask for services of the Graffiti Blasters program), trying to work with absentee landlords to better manage properties and tenants, and creating a paper trail by filing verbal and written complaints against problem properties with the city’s Building Department, the alderman’s office, 311, 911, the police, and so on.

EVA has a written tool available for helping residents to organize themselves to deal with neighborhood problems. This tool, called EVA Problem Resolution Guide, was recently posted on EVA’s website www.eastvillagechicago.org. Please read this concise guide for practical and useful ways to begin the problem-solving process on the community level.

My own experience with crime on my block showed me that the most effective ways to deal with local problems is to work with concerned neighbors. We have in the past written letters to landlords, met in person with problem landlords, painted out graffiti, discussed problems at EVA meetings, met with the alderman, met with the 13th District police commander, and dealt with the city’s building department regarding problem buildings. Doing this can require tenacity and patience.

When bad things happen, that’s a good time to reflect on why it’s important to know your neighbors and be involved in your community. Get out on your street, introduce yourself, be friendly, look your neighbors in the eye and get to know them, show an interest in the people who live around you, whether they are renters or owners. That way, working together on a problem can seem less daunting a task.


Update on the Southwest Corner of Division Street and Ashland Avenue—Pizza Hut Site