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Duchnowski: DeKalb’s police chief answers your questions

Published: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery ate more than his usual at breakfast Thursday.

He hosted his first Coffee with the Chief event at The Lincoln Inn, 240 E. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb. Lowery wanted to give DeKalb residents a chance to talk with him about their concerns in small groups or one-on-one. Initially, he talked with a handful of people, but then he started nibbling on pastries and talking with folks individually.

I came with some questions supplied by people who “like” the Daily Chronicle on Facebook (You can find us at www.facebook.com/dekalb.daily.chronicle). Here’s what Lowery had to say:

Question: Can we get past arresting people for marijuana and go after real crimes?

Answer: Lowery said police officers are charged with enforcing all laws, not just the popular ones. That being said, often people are charged with marijuana possession after police arrest people on other charges.

“I think we have to remain vigilant in all aspects of enforcement,” Lowery said.

Question: Does DeKalb have a problem with violence? How did a wonderful Midwestern town become something to fear?

Answer: It didn’t happen overnight. It likely was a conflation of the economic downturn, police staff cuts, foreclosures, unemployment and other financial stress, Lowery said.

“From the moment I set foot in this community, it was clear it was disproportionately affected by violent crime,” Lowery said.

But DeKalb police are trying to maximize their resources and take more initiative, rather than simply reacting to crime, Lowery said. They are spending more time policing higher-crime areas and working with regional law enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

“If the criminal element believes they can be safe and do what they do with relative ease, they’ll go where they can do it,” Lowery said. “... I don’t want the criminal element to feel comfortable.”

Question: How can we support you?

Answer: It starts with communication and taking responsibility. If you see a problem, whether it be junk cars or burned-out streetlights – or something more serious – report it to police. If it’s something another department should handle, they’ll point you that way.

“Ignoring the problem and having an expectation that someone else is going to solve it for you is part of how we got here,” Lowery said.

Residents also can help others make good decisions. For example, don’t let a friend walk alone at night in a dangerous neighborhood. Don’t let the person next to you at a bar drive home if he or she clearly has had too much to drink, Lowery said.

“Take the responsibility to do the right thing,” he said.

The nonemergency number for DeKalb police is 815-748-8400. You can find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dekalbpolice. You can also communicate anonymously with police through their new iWatch program at www.cityofdekalb.com/Police/Iwatch.htm.

Lowery’s next Coffee with the Chief will be at 9 a.m. June 20 at The Lincoln Inn. Stop in if you’re near downtown. He’ll buy you a cup of coffee.

• Jillian Duchnowski is the Daily Chronicle’s news editor. Reach her at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, or email jduchnowski@shawmedia.com.

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