Residents Deny Security Improvements


To improve the safety for its disabled, senior and family residents, the Chicago Housing Authority three years ago started paying $12 million annually to the Chicago Police Department (CPD) for “supplemental police services.” These services were to include foot patrols of CHA family developments and senior buildings to control continual drug sales and gang violence.

CHA has been reporting major improvements with security since the city police force replaced their former police department in 2000. The CHA Board of Commissioners renewed the contract with the police department for $13.6 million for an additional year at a recent meeting.

But the majority of residents recently surveyed from several CHA sites said they see little improvement in their security. Residents also are not seeing a reduction of drug sales or gang activity in their public housing sites.

Residents’ Observations
“What security? There isn’t any change. Just more drama,” said Robert Taylor resident Genavie Sanford.

“They need to pay me for some security,” she said.

CHA got rid of its own police force in October 1999 and hired Chicago police officers in January 2000 to provide police services over and above their normal “Baseline Services,” according to the March 30, 2001 Intergovernmental Agreement with the City.

The Chicago Police Department is being paid $12 million per year in quarterly installments of $3 million, a total of $36 million for the period of Jan. 1, 2000 through Dec. 31, 2002. The contract states that the city police force should “control, reduce and prevent violent/non-violent crime, drug use, drug trafficking and drug related crime as provided in the CHA Policing Plan,” among other services.

But residents say there are no outstanding improvements in security or reduction in drug activity.

“They should have kept the CHA police,” said Stateway Gardens Local Advisory Council Vice President the Rev. Learna Solsberry.

“Somebody is wasting money. Rome wasn’t built in a day but this (drug sales and gang violence) has been going on for days, months and years,” she declared.

“It’s the same when the CHA police were here,” said Dearborn Homes LAC Vice President Alexander Hall.

“It’s still drug sales here. Dearborn needs more attention. Where are the officers that were assigned to other areas like Robert Taylor and Stateway, where buildings are being torn down? There is less need for them there,” he declared.

At meetings since the hiring of the CPD, residents have told CHA officials their concerns about their security.

“We need a lockdown in Dearborn,” declared Dearborn Homes resident Teresa Ricks to CHA Director of Operations Dwain Bailey during a monthly Tenant Services meeting on Sept. 11.

“People are getting killed there,” she said with urgency.

At the September meeting, Renee Jones, a single parent of nine children, tearfully pleaded with Bailey to do something about the gang violence at Dearborn Homes. She said that people were under siege at the public housing complex and mothers and children were in fear of their lives.

“After school, my kids call me at work to see if they should come into the building for fear of the shootings,” she proclaimed.

CHA apparently is listening to the residents’ complaints. The renewed contract between CHA and the Police Department for 2003 states that additional officers will be deployed at Dearborn, Harold L. Ickes Homes and Rockwell Gardens because “the CHA’s management determined that additional manpower is needed at these developments to address concerns related to relocation.”

Police Misconduct
Residents often complained about misconduct by City police officers since they took over law enforcement duties in the developments.

Ida B. Wells resident Valerie Parker, who is the president of the Wells Extensions buildings, told CHA CEO Terry Peterson during the Nov. 13 Tenant Services meeting about her recent run-in with a few cops assigned to patrol CHA. Parker, a member of Access Living, an advocacy organization for people with disabilities, said that on Monday, Oct. 21, at around 11:30 p.m., at least 5 white police officers busted into her apartment, harassed her and her fiance – who was taking a bath at the time – and arrested them for trespassing in her own apartment.

After being taken to jail in her nightclothes, Parker said she spent over 6 hours being shuffled back and forth from the police station at 51st Street and Wentworth Avenue to the station at 38th Street in the Wells development. Finally, she and her fiance were released without formally being charged with anything.

“It’s horrible the way they’re doing the people who are not doing anything, and the boys still sell dope and still are gang-banging,” she explained to RJ.

Parker said the officers never gave a reason why they came to her door in the first place.

Parker told Peterson that she reported the incident to Chicago Police Commander Charles Williams, who oversees the officers in charge of patrolling CHA developments. She added that she filed a complaint with the Office of Professional Standards against the officers for breaking down her door and entering her apartment without a search warrant and for the loss of personal property she alleged was stolen by burglars who came through the opened door after her arrest. She also complained about the injuries she allegedly suffered at the hands of the police during the incident.

“I’m still traumatized,” she said sadly to RJ.

Parker said that at a recent Ida B. Wells resident council meeting that children had also complained about police using racial slurs.

“Today, I come here with a real heavy heart. They are out of control, Mr. Peterson,” Parker declared at the November Tenant Services meeting.

Peterson replied, “I’m going to meet with their managers and get those officers fired.”

Peterson said he planned to join representatives of the Ida B. Wells LAC for a planned meeting regarding these incidents with CPD officials the following day. RJ was unable to confirm whether CHA had followed up on this commitment.

Foot Patrols
The agreement between CHA and the CPD states that police officers are required to walk around daily within CHA parameters in the fashion of security guards.

But the majority of residents surveyed said that they see police in cars more than on foot. And the majority said that they see police on foot only during drug raids or while they are searching for someone – not for routine patrols. Myra King, the LAC president for Trumbull/Lowden Homes on the far South Side, said this past summer, “I’ve never seen them come out and walk the development. But there is a car stationed at Trumbull near the LAC office. It’s really there to protect the store,” she said.

King said residents told her the officers themselves had told them the only reason they were there was to protect that store.

King said she and members of the LAC had in the past asked for police officers to patrol the two public housing complexes she represents, and were told that none were available.

“I have asked for foot patrol and for bike patrol for Trumbull/Lowden Homes but was told that there was a shortage of police officers,” she said.

Police Response
While at the Charles A. Hayes Family Investment Center on October 17, I asked Chicago Police Commander Williams, who is in charge of the officers assigned to CHA developments, why police are having a hard time getting rid of the drug activities and gang violence within CHA?

He said, “It is very difficult to police the high-rises,” because the buildings provide good hiding places and escape routes.

“The answer to completely eradicate getting rid of drugs is very difficult. As long as you have teens, that will be a very big challenge,” Williams explained. “Nowadays, jobs are tight and it will take other types of alternatives in some area that is going to pull the youth into something productive.”

A small percentage of the residents surveyed said they have witnessed police officers that straight-out bypassed drug sales in progress, only to harass legal tenants when the officers came to the developments for whatever reasons.

Williams said that some residents recently told him the same thing during the Oct. 16 meeting at the Bridgeport Homes. But he said he doesn’t believe it.

“Bridgeport said the same thing last night. I don’t agree because officers are trained to stop and talk to people to get information, not to harass them,” he said.

Regarding the lack of officers allegedly seen on foot by residents, Williams said, “Most are mobile but I’m mixing them up more.”

It was widely reported throughout 2001 that the police department was having trouble securing the reported 450 officers for the public housing unit required under the Intergovernmental Agreement with CHA.

Williams declined to specify the current number of officers in the public housing unit. “By giving out numbers, we would help the criminals find out the best time to commit a crime,” he said.

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