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Local Column

Gaura: DeKalb’s response to violent crime demands more of us all

Danielle Guerra - dguerra@shawmedia.com                                                      
DeKalb City Manager Anne Marie Gaura talks about the opening of 16 businesses in DeKalb during the annual DeKalb State of the City at Faranda's in DeKalb on Tuesday, July 21, 2015.
Danielle Guerra - dguerra@shawmedia.com DeKalb City Manager Anne Marie Gaura talks about the opening of 16 businesses in DeKalb during the annual DeKalb State of the City at Faranda's in DeKalb on Tuesday, July 21, 2015.

On Monday evening, I – along with Mayor Jerry Smith, Police Chief Gene Lowery, Community Development Director Jo Ellen Charlton and several other officials from the city of DeKalb – met with nearly 100 concerned residents to discuss what we can do as a community to make the Annie Glidden North neighborhood safer. 

A recent spike in violent crime incidents in the area has us all rightfully concerned. That’s why we decided it was important to bring together the community to update everyone on the measures underway to address this very serious matter and gather their feedback. 

We know that for every resident who attended, there are dozens more who share our concerns about public safety but were unable to participate in the meeting. So, I would like to briefly update Daily Chronicle readers on the meeting and what’s next. 

First, I’m very proud that Monday’s discourse was honest, results-driven and civil. We focused on solving problems, not pointing fingers. We talked about solutions rather than barriers. 

Just a few of the suggested solutions included the following: 

• Having public and private entities install surveillance cameras in the area and make better use of what cameras do exist; 

• Introducing new ordinances aimed at crime deterrence and addressing the conditions that breed crime; 

• Making public safety a priority as the Annie Glidden North Revitalization Plan moves forward; 

• Challenging landlords and property managers to implement their own tenant safety measures (installing cameras, code compliance, improving general upkeep of their properties); and 

• Exploring the feasibility of the DeKalb Park District limiting hours at Welsh Park, which has become a magnet for gang activity at night. 

The city will be following up on these items in hopes that implementing these ideas can have lasting effect. 

Second, I am pleased, but not surprised, that those in attendance understand that addressing violent crime is not just the job of the police. Make no mistake, the hardworking men and women of the DeKalb Police Department have been doing an outstanding job serving our community. I am very proud of the progress they have made, for example, to identify and arrest the individuals who are behind much of the violence that has happened in our community over the past several weeks. 

But public safety is a responsibility that is shared by everyone, including city officials, property owners, business owners, students, families and all residents. 

Finally, perhaps the most important outcome from Monday evening’s meeting was that we agreed that conversations that took place there need to happen more frequently. So, we made the commitment to meet and discuss public safety matters on a more frequent basis.

It’s a fitting outcome because the conversation we all have about keeping our families and our community safe is one that should never really end. 

• Anne Marie Gaura is the city manager of DeKalb. She can be reached at 815-748-2090 or annemarie.gaura@cityofdekalb.com.

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