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Chiefs offer advice to Sycamore residents

SYCAMORE – Thomas Jackson enjoys leaving his home at the Civic Apartments in Sycamore for an evening stroll.

Jackson said he wondered how local police could keep the city so safe. Luckily, Sycamore Police Chief Don Thomas happened to be visiting the Civic Apartments along with Sycamore Fire Chief Pete Polarek. Thomas answered his question.

“This is a quiet town,” he said. 

The answer drew applause from other Civic Apartments residents and other audience members. Thomas and Polarek visited the building Thursday in partnership with the Housing Authority of the County of DeKalb to hold an open discussion about their departments with the public.

Both chiefs came to introduce themselves to residents, discuss people’s concerns and field questions about public safety. Fire alarms, driving safety and fraud were some of the topics the residents raised during the visit, which lasted more than an hour.

The Civic Apartments, at 350 Grant St., is one of the many public housing buildings managed by the housing authority. The building has 74 one-bedroom apartments in a five-story building, according its website. The building was constructed as senior citizen housing, but anyone who meets the housing authority’s income requirements can stay there.  

One question residents were curious about is if they should stay in their rooms or leave if a fire alarm goes off. Polarek recommended that residents who can easily exit do so, but to remain inside if they had difficulty moving.

“If it’s going to cause you more difficulty to leave because you can’t move very fast, stay sheltered in your apartment,” Polarek said.

He said the concrete structure of the rooms in the Civic Apartments can protect the residents against a fire should they decide not to leave. 

While Thomas and Polarek were answering questions, they also were giving advice. Thomas asked how many people in the crowd had cellphones; most of them raised their hands. He then warned them about giving out financial or personal information over the phone to people they don’t know. 

“We’re getting a lot of fraud and bogus phone calls reported all over town,” he said.

Thomas recommended people ask for names and numbers so they can verify the caller’s identity. Thomas also warned the crowd about using cellphones while driving, as using handheld devices in a vehicle will be illegal in Illinois starting Jan. 1. 

Polarek and Thomas encouraged the crowd to visit to learn more about their apartments. They also encouraged them to send them questions if they had any more.

Pat Carlson, a Civic Apartments resident, said the visit from Thomas and Polarek was helpful.

“It’s nice they came to visit because there was a lot of questions asked,” she said. 

Vivian Bright, operations coordinator of the housing authority, also noted the positive reaction. She said she thought the two chiefs did a great job.

“They’re more approachable,” Bright said, “... and their departments are more approachable.” 

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