DeKALB – Police Chief Gene Lowery had good news for the 50-plus community members attending Monday evening’s public safety forum inside the DeKalb Police Department.
“This weekend we didn’t have any shootings,” Lowery said.
With six recent shots-fired incidents and a nonfatal shooting that have shaken the Annie Glidden North neighborhood, no news is good news, for now.
Lowery used the meeting to address the community’s concerns and discuss a plan moving forward to counter the city’s recent violence. A majority of the recent incidents are gang related, and a lot of the violent offenders have been coming to DeKalb from Aurora, Lowery said.
“There has been a significant amount of gang-on-gang violence in Aurora over the past 18 to 24 months that has resulted in several deaths. That has created a war, to some degree, of attrition with the gangs that have caused them to relocate. I’m not saying that’s the sole reason they’re here, but that’s definitely one of them.”
On Friday, DeKalb police arrested 11 men and three others are wanted in connection with the recent incidents. Lowery said it was good to bring justice and give DeKalb residents some peace of mind, but he knows there is a lot more work to be done.
“I don’t think this is the end,” he said. “I think this is just the beginning of the measures we have to take. We literally have to keep the pressure on. If we back off of that, we’re not going to dislodge them from our community.”
DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith was in
attendance and answered questions from the audience. During his introduction, Smith said violent crime is not welcome in DeKalb.
“We will simply not tolerate any behavior that places our residents at risk,” Smith said. “Such zero tolerance to gang activity and gang violence means that we all need to do more.”
A big topic of discussion during the forum was the hope to install cameras around the city, starting in the Annie Glidden North neighborhood. Lowery said there was budgeting for installation of cameras in the fiscal 2018 plan; however, it isn’t enough funding.
“With this level of violence, we have to do something more in the neighborhood that needs it the most,” Lowery said. “We’ve been proposing a camera system in this community well before I got here.”
In addition to cameras, Lowery said he wants the city to install a gunfire detection system, “ShotSpotter.” ShotSpotter’s technology can locate when an actual gunshot is fired and pinpoint its location.
Lowery said it would cost between $150,000 and $250,000 to install the system and about $500,000 to install ShotSpotter and cameras around the city.
Outside of the small amount in the planned budget for cameras, Lowery said there’s been a few small seeding efforts from members in the community. He did not comment on who exactly has contributed money, but said he hopes for more efforts around DeKalb.
“I would love to see a coalition between the city and students at NIU to help us do some fundraising to address that need,” he said. “The city is at a point and time where they need to commit some resources.”
The DeKalb Police Department also wants to add three officers next year and two more in 2019.
“We need witnesses to criminal incidents. We need your help,” Lowery said. “We live or we die by what we do. When people engage in criminal activity and use a firearm with little to no discretion for human life, that’s where we are today. … That’s what we’ve seen on our northwest side.”