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Safe Streets Initiative input sought after Phase 2 passage

DeKALB – Although the second phase of the Safe Streets Initiative was unanimously approved by the DeKalb City Council on Monday, lingering concerns exist with the crime-reduction program.

DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery said Monday that no one in the police department wants to do anything to distress residents of the neighborhood. But he said with multiple instances of weapons being fired, some of which he described as a shootout at the O.K. Corral because of the multiple rounds being exchanged, something must be done.

“The simple fact is I don’t want thugs running this community anymore,” Lowery said.

Lowery said the choice is between convenience and safety, but Christine Wang, speaker of the Senate for the NIU Student Association, said students might not see this as such a black-and-white issue.

Students having to pay $92 for an NIU parking pass and $25 for the Safe Streets permit, a total of $117 for a single car, makes an education even more cost-prohibitive, Wang said.

She also voiced concerns that the initiative would incentivize intoxicated students to move their car during the no-parking period.

“In theory, [Safe Streets] means that students would simply be more responsible, and university-sanctioned parties are supposed to end at 1 a.m., which would give ample time for students to move their cars,” Wang said. “But in practice, we know that’s not going to happen.”

To address these concerns, the DeKalb Police Department will host a community meeting geared toward NIU students from 7 to 9 p.m. April 26 in the community room of the department, 700 W. Lincoln Highway.

“The purpose of the meeting is to answer questions and to respond to concerns,” Lowery said. “However, we have been meeting with NIU staff and students since last fall regarding these proposals.”

DeKalb police officials also will be at the City Council’s April 23 meeting for a public hearing to go over the final two phases on the initiative.

The second phase, which aims to prevent the displacement of crime from adjoining neighborhoods, was unanimously passed Monday by the City Council. The original ordinance, which contained parking restrictions in a subdivision on Loren Drive, was amended to remove this area after residents opposed its inclusion during first reading.

Lowery said that he expects to begin enacting the second phase in the next two weeks, allowing for sign installation, appropriate notification and a two-week grace period with warnings issued before enforcement. Social media and other city resources will be used to get the word out to all affected parties, including Northern Illinois University students.

As a compromise to NIU students having to pay double for parking permits, 6th Ward Alderman Mike Verbic suggested letting NIU students with parking passes park within designated Safe Streets zones, which Lowery said could be considered.

Phase 2 of the initiative prohibits on-street parking except for permitted residents in the College/John neighborhood in DeKalb’s 5th Ward and a narrow strip of property in the Annie Glidden North area from Hyacinth Lane to Newman Lane.

Phase 3 would establish no-parking zones from 2 to 6 a.m. in a section west of North Annie Glidden Road along West Hillcrest Drive. Phase 4 would expand these restrictions to an area east of Annie Glidden Road covering Kimberly Drive, Greenbrier Road and Edgebrook Drive.

The first phase, which set restrictions along Crane Drive and Russell Road, was approved late last year as a beta site and was phased in without incident, Lowery said.

Residents who qualify for a parking permit can submit an application to the DeKalb Police Department for no charge. The permit will be valid until August.

Starting then, resident permits will run alongside the university school year. Permits will be available for purchase and be valid from August 2018 until July 2019.

A layout of the Safe Streets Initiative is available on the city of DeKalb’s website.

Compass ordinance moves forward

Safe Streets wasn’t the only police initiative that was unanimously approved Monday.

A first reading vote of the Changing Outcomes by Making Parents Accountable, Supported and Successful program, which seeks to increase accountability of parents for the criminal behavior of juveniles, also was approved.

Deputy Police Chief John Petragallo said “successful” is the key word of the program for the police department.

“Anything we can do to help out the family to better their child, we’ll do it,” Petragallo said.

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