Police crackdown on Englewood neighborhod

Friday, March 24, 2006

A crackdown is underway in Chicago's Englewood community as police step up efforts to make streets safer for residents after two young girls were killed by gunfire.

For a long time, we have heard Englewood residents demand increased police protection. At long last, the extra troops have arrived, and Englewood is still a tough place to live.

Residents say there has been a noticeable increase in police presence in the Englewood community and they have seen numerous arrests. A march is planned Friday night for residents.

"There's been a lot of heat in the neighborhood, they stopping everybody," said Vernon Johnson.

Johnson says he has been stopped and searched four times in the past two weeks, always by squads of black-uniformed, special operations officers who now patrol the crime-ridden neighborhood 24 hours a day.

"They are stopping anybody. Not just me, anybody they see walking," Johnson said.

The increased patrols are targeting drug dealers and users, as well as suspected gang members, and began earlier this month following the deaths of 14-year-old Starkesia Reed and 10-year-old Siretha White. The girls were killed by stray bullets fired during unrelated incidents eight days apart.

"They have been too reckless. Females or guys," one neighborhood teen said.

Teenagers we met Friday afternoon say they keep moving and don't loiter on Englewood streets during the police crackdown.

"When they grab you, they going to talk all types of ways," said one.

For years, many Englewood homeowners have demanded an increased police presence in the neighborhood. But 64-year-old Richard Dunn is having second thoughts after an encounter he says he had with a policeman last week.

"He stuck a gun up my nose," Dunn said.

Dunn says he did not file a complaint with the Chicago Police Department following the alleged incident. He says, despite the murders earlier this month, police must remember during the crackdown that most Englewood residents are not criminals.

"You got to have law and order. See? You can't have everybody running off doing what they want to do, whenever they get ready to do it. But we got to do it in a certain way and we got to have the respect on both sides of the ledger," said Dunn.

There is no word on how long Chicago police will maintain their increased patrols in the neighborhood.

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