The Following Appeared in the June 20, 2013 edition of The Skokie Review:
An open letter to Skokie Village Government
On June 24, 2010, the founders of Skokie Voice organized a meeting at Niles West High School for Skokie residents to express to village officials their concerns about crime in Skokie. More than 500 residents attended this event. At this event, residents expressed their concerns about the decline in safety, gang activity in parks, drug sales on our streets, run-down buildings and fears of walking in their neighborhood at night.
As we approach the third anniversary of that meeting, it is fair to ask what plans the village, including the newly elected Board of Trustees, have to address crime in Skokie? To date, officials at Village Hall and the Police Department maintain that crime is down in Skokie, although statistics show that personal crimes such as assault, robbery, and sexual assault are up. But it is also the character of the criminal activity that has changed. Gang activity is an increasing issue in Skokie. This was unheard of until recent years. It is a reality, not merely “perception.”
The mayor and the village trustees were recently elected by only 13 percent of the registered voters. They ran for election as members of the Skokie Caucus Party. But I hope they remember that they do not only represent the Caucus Party or those that voted for them, but that they represent all of Skokie’s 65,000 citizens.
At the 2010 meeting, village officials pledged to hold forums for Skokie residents to discuss crime and other matters of concern. Yet, nothing has come of that pledge. In a letter in the Skokie Review after the recent election, Mayor Van Dusen again pledged to hold forums for Skokie residents. We hope this will come to fruition.
There are steps that the village officials can take to remedy these problems. First, officials at Village Hall and the Police Department must acknowledge that Skokie has crime issues that are different than 10 or 15 years ago. No problem can be addressed without acknowledging that there is a problem. Second, our elected officials promised to hold citizen forums three years ago and again in April. It is time for them to make good on their promise. Third, each trustee could meet with residents in smaller groups to hear their concerns. Finally, the village must consider adding additional police officers to its force. The village has retained a firm to conduct a study of police services in Skokie. This is a good start.
We want our government officials to know that we all share the same concerns for Skokie and want to work together so that Skokie can be a thriving community that is safe for its residents. But it is time for all those at Village Hall and the Police Department to stop ignoring the very real crime issues in Skokie. It is also time for the Mayor and the Trustees to make good on their pledge to communicate with our citizens. ~.