New police commander stops, looks, listens to East Village complaints

A day after East Village's new police commander heard complaints about speeding cars on North Winchester, a patrol car was parked at Winchester and Thomas. The next day, Judith Martin was checking out the alley escape route for a nearby home burglary that had been discussed.

Martin told East Village Association members on June 3 that she shared their concern about side streets being used as rush-hour speedways. "If you draw your attention to stop signs, nobody stops!" Martin said. Drivers will "just coast through" a stop sign, even one in front of the 13th District's Wood Street squad room. "People think it's like a caution sign."

Martin said the death of 4-year-old Maya Hirsch in a 2006 accident rallied her Lincoln Park neighbors to a Stop for Maya campaign to promote driving caution. She suggested Winchester residents petition for speed bumps and said patrol officers had been assigned to traffic hotspots.

"Crimes of opportunity" such as burglary and auto theft have increased in the district even as murder and other violent crime has dropped, she said. With the squad down five officers, Martin is staffing foot patrols with probationary officers who have finished field training.

The 13th District's lack of lockup facilities is a manpower drain, she said, because prisoners must be taken to adjoining police stations. "Unless we get a new district, I don't see a lockup reopening," Martin said.

More patrols will be added for this month's Fiestas Puertorriqueñas in an attempt to stanch a seasonal rise in violent crime, Martin said. She noted changes in the street-gang landscape and a rash of after-school problems along Chicago Avenue.
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