Crime

Public safety: It starts at home

East St. Louis and Illinois State police investigate a shooting in the city.
East St. Louis and Illinois State police investigate a shooting in the city. File photo

Police and other first-responders were in the spotlight once again recently, this time during a forum on public safety.

Police Chief Michael Hubbard said he organized the forum because he felt it was important to introduce citizens to the people who are working hard to keep them safe.

“Tonight starts a new beginning. We want our citizens and our city to be as safe as possible. We are working on tweaking how we can be more safe as a city. It starts with the removal of trees, weeds and other things that make it easy for criminals to do criminal things.”

Among those introduced to the crowd were Capt. Bobby Cole, the commander of the special tactical unit; Lt. Donald Watson, the police department’s Internal Affairs investigator; Sgt. Gilda Johnson, juvenile officer, and Lt. DeAngelo Franklin, who is in charge of night patrol.

Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks thanked Hubbard for organizing the event.

“This is a chance for the city to reach out to the community, but the community has to reach out back to us,” she said. “It takes a team.”

City Manager Courtney Logan told the citizens gathered that public safety deals with the community, law enforcement, fire department, Emergency Services Disaster Agency officials and Regulatory Affairs, all of whom must work together.

“People can hide in the weeds and abandon houses. We’re working overtime to solve the problems when it comes to public safety. The chief has been working really hard to beef up security in certain areas,” he said.

Tonight starts a new beginning. We want our citizens and our city to be as safe as possible. We are working on tweaking how we can be more safe as a city. It starts with the removal of trees, weeds and other things that make it easy for criminals to do criminal things.

Police Chief Michael Hubbard

Logan said auxiliary officers, who mainly volunteer their time, are being used as part of the security team. He encouraged citizens to be involved and report suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities.

“There’s no lone wolf. I encourage you to continue to be involved in making East St. Louis a place where citizens can be proud and visitors would like to come. I extend my office to you if you have concerns tat address my role,” Logan said.

East St. Louis has one of the highest crime rates in the state, according to the annual Illinois State Police unified crime report.

Latoya Greenwood, chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, told the residents it will take a team effort to make and keep the city a safe place to live, work and for children to play.

Fire Chief Jason Blackmon said, “We protect people’s lives and property.” He told the citizens that his door was open to them for any complaints. He also said the Fire Department has partnered with the American Red Cross to get smoke detectors for citizens’ homes. And, in October he said he would be trying to work with the Red Cross to get carbon monoxide detectors, too.

Tim Tyler, commander of District 11 of the Illinois State Police, said there is nothing special about police.

Contact the East St. Louis Police Department at 482-6700. In an emergency, call 911. If you see crime happen, or have information about a crime, call Crime Stoppers at 1-866-371-TIPS. This is an anonymous hotline that pays for information leading to the solving of a crime.

“The public should police. We cannot do our job without the public.” He said St. Clair County has the third-highest amount of fatalities due to drunken driving, driving too closely and distracted driving (cell phone).

Tyler encourage people to obey the laws so they can arrive at their destinations alive. And, he told the citizens Illinois State Police, who already assist the city with homicides, “is in full support of East St. Louis and public safety.”

Desiree Holmes, mental Health director at Touchette Regional Hospital, said mental health is a huge public safety issue.

“If someone has a psychotic issue who could think that you are there to do something to him, he may pick up a weapon trying to defend himself, or he could be suicidal. She encouraged anyone who may encounter someone they believe to be psychotic to call the police or 911.

If the person is not willing to seek medical care voluntarily, “we are qualified to do an involuntary petition,” Holmes said.

“We are going to train East St. Louis police how to complete an involuntary petition,” Holmes said. Holmes also said people need to call police if they suspect someone might be suicidal.

Carlynda Coleman, principal of Dunbar Elementary School, talked about how the police have helped her keep students and teachers safe at school.

The public should police. We cannot do our job without the public.

Tim Tyler, commander of Illinois State Police, District 11

She told the audience she first met Hubbard “when we had an issue with children breaking into teachers’ cars.” She said police identified the people responsible and learned they were homeless and hungry. Instead of arresting them, Hubbard worked to get them the services they needed to turn away from criminal behavior.

Coleman said police are also needed at the elementary level to protect teachers who encounter unruly parents, and in some cases with students who refuse to cooperate. Then there’s students who might be walking home past individuals selling drugs, or who may be sex offenders.

Anthony Vinson, director of the city’s Emergency Services Disaster Agency, talked about his role in bringing all of the entities together to help save lives and property.

Afterward, several people hung around to engage in further conversation with the various city leaders in attendance. Some said they thought the forum was informational and needed. Others said they want to have more forums, and that hopefully more residents will come out.

“At the end of the day, we have to be the eyes and ears in the neighborhoods where we live,” said one resident. “Police can only help us if we help them.”

Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503

Crime prevention tips

Use these tips to keep yourself and your belongs safe:

  • Be alert to your surroundings.
  • Stay in well-lighted areas as much as possible.
  • Make eye contact with people when walking.
  • Educate yourself concerning crime prevention tactics.
  • Walk confidently and at a steady pace.
  • Lock your car doors.
  • When you park your car, remove all valuables.
  • Lock the trunk or tailgate of your car.
  • Roll up the windows when exiting your car.
  • Use anti-theft devices.
  • Install dead bolt locks on your doors at home.
  • Make sure all lights work.
  • Put lights on timers if going on vacation.
  • Invest in an alarm system.
  • Invest in solid core doors instead of hollow core doors.

Source: East St. Louis Police Department

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