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May 29 / Neal

Beat 2513 Recap: Banquet Hall, Police Unable to Stop North/Harlem Panhandlers

Community members and a representative from the 25th District community policing department met at the bi-monthly Beat 2513 CAPS meeting last night.  In the two month period ending May 28 there were 193 calls for service, 97 reported crimes and 51 arrests.  Many of the incidents were retail thefts at Sears Department Store at North and Harlem Avenues. The police representative called it a “quite period”.

Community members shared concerns about the neighborhood. Three issues were of greater concern to community members.

A new banquet hall under the name “Behind Closed Doors”  is attempting to open at 6206 W. North Avenue.  The business owner presented her plans early this year at a meeting held by Alderman Graham at Galewood Community Church.   The community had several concerns including locating a banquet hall in a precinct which had voted itself dry, ownership who were unable to articulate their business plan and the lack of parking for a facility of this type.

Alderman Graham asked the entrepreneur to return to a future meeting with more concrete answers for the community.  A letter was passed out regarding the issue and a group is planning to distribute to Galewoood residents from Austin Avenue to Harlem Avenue.  The letter states construction is already going on at the location and Alderman Graham is not listening to the  voices and opinions of residents.

An assistant at Alderman Graham’s office is not aware of any permit being issued or business license granted to this operation.  The alderman’s office is notifying the building department.

A community member from Oak Park complained about people sleeping and panhandling at the Sears store at North Avenue and Harlem Avenue. He objected to paying $18,000 a year in taxes and having to look at a person camping on the sidwalk.  The police representative stated that no laws are being broken unless they panhandle aggressively or if they are panhandling in the street in which case they can be cited for obstructing traffic.

The police have offered the panhandlers assistance in  finding shelters and their possessions have been removed from the intersection only to have them return. Sears has not been cooperating in having the homeless person removed.

When asked why the police are not able to cite the panhandlers for obstructing traffic the officer stated the panhandlers go to the sidewalk when the police show up.  The panhandlers can be easily observed in the street many hours each day.

Another community member was concerned about large groups of 30-40 teenagers who are loitering, unsupervised, in Amundsen Park.   While the teenagers were not observed committing any crimes the group created an intimidating atmosphere at the park.

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