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Crime a focus in second Annie Glidden North community meeting

DeKALB – Since Sept. 27’s first community meeting to discuss ways to revitalize DeKalb’s Annie Glidden North neighborhood, steps have been taken to improve the safety and stability of the area.

This has included tree trimming to improve the lighting of the area, streetlight repair work by ComEd and the city’s purchase of a vacant building on Edgebrook Drive.

Conversely, there also have been seven shots-fired incidents in or around that neighborhood since the last meeting, two of which had victims that were shot. Therefore, the second Annie Glidden North community meeting began with DeKalb police officials providing an update on what they are doing to keep the acts of violence under control.

About 90 people met at the Westminster Presbyterian Church on Thursday for the meeting. Two nights before, the church’s parking lot was blocked off by police who were investigating a shooting at a University Village parking lot next door.

DeKalb Deputy Police Chief John Petragallo said the department knows there are great safety concerns in light of recent events, and it has taken several measures, such as creating a major case squad. He said that this effort, which combines the resources of many police departments, will act as a force multiplier to the shooting investigations.

“It’s a great benefit, not only to the department but the community, when we’re fortunate enough to have the numbers and the time to put into cases,” Petragallo said. “Really good things are happening right now, and we don’t want to compromise what we’re doing.”

Cmdr. Steve Lekkas said the department also is using data analysis to assign patrol cars to the biggest problem areas, and the Target Response Unit, which targets gangs and drug offenders, is focused on reducing crime.

“We’re working nonstop on the shootings,” Lekkas said.

There will be a special public safety meeting at 5 p.m. Monday at the DeKalb Police Department to address the recent violent crimes in the Annie Glidden North area. During this community event, city staff will discuss what measures are being taken to curb the number of incidents going forward.

After the crime update, Adam Rosa of Camiros, the planning firm assisting in the creation of the Annie Glidden North revitalization plan, led a series of activities to move the project forward.

“There are catalytic opportunities for revitalization and development, and we need to figure out where resources should be,” Rosa said. “This will lead us into the development of strategies, programs and projects. Today, we set a broad vision for where we want to see this community go in the future.”

About 150 community members met at the first meeting to pitch ideas to make the neighborhood flourish and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the 522-acre area.

Using this information, attendees of the second meeting were asked to identify what assets would work best in five different sections of the community: Annie Glidden North and Lucinda Avenue, Regent Drive and Varsity Boulevard, Hillcrest Drive between North Annie Glidden and Blackhawk roads, Greek Row and Welsh Park.

Eric Guenther, a Northern Illinois University sophomore and member of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, initially said the vacant campus cinemas building at the corner of Hillcrest Drive and Blackhawk Road should be torn down and replaced with a bar. However, after evaluating the number of families living in the area, he was open to any receptive revenue generator.

“I just thought a bar because we’re taking into account the Greeks, but anything rebuilt in the area would be great,” Guenther said.

Ecila Scaife, who lives on Lucinda Avenue in DeKalb, said Welsh Park could benefit from a community garden or new basketball courts.

“It’s behind University Village, and I think it’s a good thing for families to do,” Scaife said. “I do see a lot of people playing on the basketball court.”

A similar meeting specifically for NIU students was held Wednesday night. Students were asked to name the biggest asset and biggest problems with the neighborhood, and their responses went back to concerns about crime. For students, Greek organizations and room for growth were the biggest assets and crime and poor lighting were the biggest problems.

Residents at Thursday’s meeting had similar views when they were asked to identify the best option for an early action project. They overwhelmingly chose lighting assessment over projects such as a farmers market, neighborhood cleanup and a neighborhood branding effort.

Annie Glidden North’s task force of community stakeholders also will be meeting next week and will take the input from the community meeting under consideration. Rosa said there also will be a zoning review coming up that will examine the city’s regulations and how they may affect potential development opportunities.

The next community meeting is scheduled for sometime early next year.

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