Positive loitering works: see for yourself in Bucktown


A few of the people who participated in the last Friday night

"Positive loitering works," says a group of Bucktown residents who are about to "take to the streets" again this week. They will be gathering from 7 to 11 p.m., Fri., Sept. 30, at the Damen Plaza on The 606. 

While police statistics say that crime is down, perhaps you and your neighbor dispute that. You were robbed on the street and/or your neighbor's home was broken into. 

You go to a CAPS (Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy) meeting and the statistics report says crime is down. You sit stunned. You are having a reality versus perception moment. 


This group that works together and loiters together.

Positive Loitering
Positive loitering is what several neighborhoods have found to work. It is a technique used across the country. Citizens and sometimes cops hangout in areas where there are issues. They talk, pet dogs, meet new people and have an enjoyable time. 

The negativity of the term loitering changes to a positive anti-crime experience. 

"If you want things to be better, you have to participate," says Sandy Johnson, a CAPS

Facilitator in the 14th District who lives in Bucktown. "You can't keep calling the police because they can't come all the time." 

There are not as many police in the department or in our districts (including 14 and 12) as there used to be. While the Mayor says that he is adding 1,000 more officers over the next two years, it also needs to be noted that at least 500 are leaving the department annually. 

"I can understand that some people find it frightening to get out and ask people to move along. But, once you've done it once or twice, you realize YOU have a voice and you can use it," says Johnson. 

She also points out that it is still important to continue to call 9-1-1, "If you see people that don't belong in your neighborhood, that you think look suspicious or that are doing things of concern, call 9-1-1." 


Steve Jensen, Kate Hursh, Killer, Sandy Johnson and Rod Rzodkiewicz extend a welcoming greeting

Monthly Positive Loitering Gatherings
The whole mission of the neighborhood watch, said Steve Jensen, President of the Bucktown Community Organization (BCO), "...is to have a place for the neighborhood to feel comfortable to use along the Trail. [Bloomingdale Trail] 

"We have been very effective about getting neighbors out to meet each other. We've had tickets written by the police, nipping the bad behavior that stems from the drinking up here. There has been cat calling, throwing things on cars.


This group of cyclists were using the space respectfully, not like those that had taken over the space before

"If someone wants to come here and drink, don't. Go somewhere else," says Tom Rzodkiewicz. "Don't come somewhere where it is family oriented. If you want to drink do it where you are not going to make families uncomfortable.

"For the neighborhood to be able to use this space, the neighborhood has to get out and use it. So part of our efforts is to be out here to discourage people from using it in a manner that is not acceptable," said Kate Hursh.

"We can get to know our neighbors and do something good at the same time," continued Jensen. "So it speaks to both missions. The Bucktown Neighborhood Watch Mission is to make sure that citizens are aware. In the last several weeks, I've had a chance to talk to a lot of different neighbors on the Trail that I wouldn't get a chance to talk otherwise." 


Cheryl Cohen-Bugner takes time to meet a new friend

These efforts were focused on discouraging the behavior of what Jensen described as "young Hispanic males on bicycles who sit here and drink to excess. Then they throw cans onto the street and mess with people driving by. 

"I think we have a win because the fact is that they did not appear on this awesome Friday night." 


This working canine arrived on the job properly attired in a bow tie!

Others supported that statement by explaining that a group of the "trouble makers" had come by, sat around quietly for about 45 minutes than drove off. Someone else pointed out that they had driven by a few times and kept going.

Previous Success
Five years ago, Jensen, Johnson, this reporter and others worked to rid North Ave. of a horrendous prostitution issue. Like any community problem, wiggling your nose as in the classic Bewitched; repeating a Shakespearean line, "Out, out damn spot,"; and pretending it isn't happening, does NOT deal with the problem. What does work is working together to eradicate the behavior. 

You can help make the Damen Plaza on The 606 be a place where everyone feels comfortable. Bring a friend (two legged or four), your bike or neither…but show up starting at 7 p.m. on Friday night. People will be hanging out until about 11 p.m.

If it rains, it will be canceled


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