Bronzeville Residents Aim for Police Substation on 47th Street

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Bolstered by the results of a vote conducted during the recent citywide election, Chicago residents of the 3rd and 4th wards are expressing “a strong desire” for a police substation on 47th Street, according to a local resident group in the South Side’s historic Bronzeville community.

Young professionals from the Concerned Citizens of Bronzeville stated in a press release last month that the small stretch between the Green and Red CTA lines is now “unrecognizable” compared to its heyday when jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong frequented lavish night clubs along 47th Street.

The area “is filled with debris, used needles and condoms, illicit narcotic activity, rampant public drinking and urination,” the group stated.

This vacant lot, located in the 4700 block of South Prairie Avenue, is among one of those Concerned Citizens of Bronzeville suggest be the site of a sub-police station as a deterrent to crime and loitering in the area. Photo by Mary C. Johns

Within the past 12 months, two homicides have occurred in the area. Forty-Seventh Street is a unique commercial corridor because it’s where thousands of drivers link to Lake Shore Drive and the Dan Ryan expressway. Public transit users access 3 commuter rails within a span of 17 blocks.

“The lack of police visibility leads to undesirable activities and a decrease in the number of people shopping at small businesses along 47th Street,” the group stated.

The issues are blocking opportunities for re-development in the 3rd and 4th wards, they added.

Last spring, the group was upset when a tavern submitted a petition for a liquor license near the historic, currently vacant Julius Rosenwald complex. Then on June 30, residents met publicly with Alderman Pat Dowell (3) and District 2 Chicago Police Department leadership. Over 100 residents demanded better policing through a 60-day improvement plan that included a police substation.

However, the group reported that police officials rejected the plan for a substation.

Damaris Richardson, a member of the planning committee for the organization, told Residents’ Journal on March 1 that the group surveyed local residents and business owners on the issue of a police station at 47th Street. Group members then took the petitions to the Board of Elections to get an advisory referendum question placed on the two wards’ electoral ballot on Feb. 22, so that people from precincts 32 and 35 could vote on it.

Richardson said, “Ninety-four percent of the voters responded by saying ‘Yes’ to putting a police substation in one of the empty store fronts on 47th Street between Prairie Avenue and Michigan Avenue.”

She added that she and others who attended the June 30 public meeting with Dowell and the police officials was baffled as to why the idea for a police substation was so quickly rejected.

“We didn’t understand why they dismissed it so quickly at the meeting,” Richardson said. “It was something that clearly a lot of residents want. And that’s evidenced by the advisory referendum results, which state that 92 percent—if you average both precincts of people that voted­­— want a police station on 47th Street.”

Richardson, who has lived in Bronzeville since 2004, told RJ that during the meeting last June, Ald. Dowell “took ownership of” a 60-day ward improvement plan, requiring police officers who patrol 47th Street to check into the stores and sign sign-in sheets because some of the business owners were complaining that they didn’t see the police patrolling in their neighborhoods.

“So what happened in that 60-day improvement plan was that sign-in sheets were placed in businesses along 47th Street and the officers were required to go into each building and sign the sign-in sheet to make sure that they were patrolling the block like they were supposed to be.”

Richardson said she wasn’t sure if the police officers were still required to go in the stores and sign in. The group shifted their focus to getting the police station along 47th Street.

“Our research has shown that putting police stations in challenged commercial corridors helps to reduce crime,” she said. “We feel like the community has a lot of potential, and we’re committed to seeing that potential realized.”

Tony, who owns a restaurant on Michigan Avenue and 47th Street, said the police substation was a good idea. “Yes, that’s what it needs,” he said.

Ald. Dowell was unable for comment by RJ post-time.

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4 Responses to “Bronzeville Residents Aim for Police Substation on 47th Street”

  1. DMT Says:

    It’s wonderful to see young professionals pulling their weight…especially on the South side. More people should know about this group, it’s very exciting. Thanks for a great story!

  2. TNH Says:

    What an accomplishment! Way to go Bronzeville.

  3. D. Richardson Says:

    Great article. Really highlights the need for change and new ideas. You did a wonderful job covering the issue.

  4. CCoB Says:

    Dear Bronzeville: Continue to voice your support of the CPD Police Substation! We need to hear from you.
    Thanks,
    CCoB

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