Inaugural beat meeting stresses police, citizen cooperation in Park Ridge
Park Ridge Police Officer Matt McGannon speaks to an audience of about 50 Park Ridge residents during a police-beat meeting July 31 at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. | Jennifer Johnson~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 10, 2012 6:09AM
PARK RIDGE — The importance of citizens looking out for their neighbors and reporting crime tips to police was at the core of the Park Ridge Police Department’s very first beat meeting with residents of the city’s 2nd Ward.
Led by Park Ridge Police Officer Matt McGannon, one of the city’s five new beat leaders, the 90-minute meeting at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital drew a crowd of about 50 residents who heard about the successes of a police-community partnership and how they themselves can help combat crime in their own neighborhoods.
“We need your input to help us do our job,” McGannon said.
McGannon, along with Police Chief Frank Kaminski and Deputy Police Chief Lou Jogmen, stressed that residents should call 911 whenever they see something suspicious and try to provide police with as much information as they can.
“We want you to be able to call us and not be afraid to call us,” Kaminski told the crowd.
Since Jan. 1 the Area One police beat, encompassing the north side of the city, has experienced two robberies, 12 burglaries, 27 thefts, 14 burglaries from vehicles, 10 batteries, three vehicle thefts, 23 incidents of criminal trespass and eight incidents of criminal damage to vehicles, according to data shared with residents.
McGannon told the group that they can be of great help to the police in solving and putting an end to crime.
“We solve some of our biggest cases by people calling and saying, ‘You know, I probably shouldn’t be calling, but ... ’ and it was exactly the tip we were looking for,” the officer said.
Resident Jim Gonzalez also advised his neighbors to keep an eye on each other and report to police suspicious vehicles or people who don’t seem to belong in the area.
“We have to look out for ourselves first,” he said.
Working with citizens, businesses, and other police departments has led to several successes within the Area One beat, McGannon said.
Gang activity at Dee Road and Dempster Street in unincorporated Maine Township has dropped, thanks in large part to the Cook County Sheriff’s Police, he said. Work with Advocate Lutheran General Hospital has also helped to reduce accidents at the crash-prone Dempster Street and Luther Lane intersection, and has put a stop to drug use on the playground at Messiah Lutheran Church, 1605 Vernon Ave.
McGannon reported that hypodermic needles were found among the play equipment and an investigation determined that individuals who were involved in a substance-abuse program at the hospital were likely involved.
Hospital security cameras also helped police identify and arrest a 17-year-old boy involved in a “ruse-entry” scheme in which he allegedly posed as a construction worker in order to gain access to a Weeg Way resident’s home. The woman later discovered jewelry had been stolen from a bedroom.
Ruse-entry burglaries, in which criminals lure their way into a home while the residents, usually elderly, are present, was a topic that received special attention during the meeting.
McGannon urged residents not to open their doors to people they do not know.
“It’s 2012. No one should be coming to your home,” McGannon said. “Not the water department, not the gas department, nobody.
“If somebody comes to your door and wants to come into your house, I don’t care if they have four hard hats and seven IDs, one of the signed by President Obama. You call 911.”
Ruse burglars will often pose as municipal employees or construction workers. If someone is a legitimate employee, he or she will have no problem waiting outside while police are called to verify their credentials, McGannon said.
Door-to-door solicitors can also be cited if they do not have a permit from the city, so residents were advised to report anyone who comes to their home without proof that they had permission to solicit. “No soliciting” stickers were also handed out at the meeting.
The city’s financial difficulties and the fact that the Police Department is operating with fewer officers since 2010 was also mentioned. One resident said he would rather see additional police officers hired than, say, renovations at the library.
Second Ward Alderman Rich DiPietro replied that he does not anticipate the city adding any new police or firefighter positions in the near future due to ongoing budgetary struggles.