Police and community leaders combat crime in Chicago’s 9th District
January 1, 2010

By Amy Rothblatt

Although David Jarmusz only recently became commander of the Ninth Police District, he already is gaining recognition in the community for his efforts to establish good relationships with residents, schools, clergy, businesses, and neighborhood associations.

One such connection Jarmusz has made is with the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, founded in 1939 to combat poverty in the area during the Great Depression. Today, the group’s mission is to “enhance the general welfare of all residents, organizations, and businesses in our service area. We accomplish this by integrating social service and economic development programs.”

Shortly after Jarmusz arrived at his new post, officials invited him to attend the Back of the Yards meetings as well as a new City Task Force’s meetings on crime to see where he could add his support and resources. Jarmusz said he is focusing on drug and gang activity, and such meetings “in the long run should help eliminate some of the violent gang crime in the Back of the Yards Community.”

“So far we are meeting once a month at the Chavez School, at 47th and Marshfield, in the evening,” Jarmusz added. “This is not something we are running ourselves; everyone is coming together to try to identify and eliminate many of the problems. There are corporate committees that have put together issues that they would like to work on: education, employment, social services, housing, youth leadership, and street alternatives” in a “collaboration of the people”—school principals, clergy, residents, officers from the Ninth District, business people, and members from various community organizations.

Commander David Jarmusz has been working with the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council in an effort to get community involvement in fighting crime. (Photo by Amy Rothblatt)

Good attendance

More than 50 people attended the first monthly meeting, and they were “enthusiastic about becoming involved,” Jarmusz continued. “The second meeting had even more people.” He was pleased residents came and that “they expressed themselves quite freely.”

Key issues identified by residents, the council, and the task force are gang activity and neighborhood safety. Another major issue is improving education and opportunities for area youth to help cut gang recruitment and discourage gangs from gathering outside throughout the neighborhood.

Additional training

To address these issues, Jarmusz has proposed additional training for the district’s police officers as a way to use “officers that we already have and have them work smarter. We are examining ways to accomplish this and figure out what we need to bring proper services to the area. For one thing, we are trying to get more people from the neighborhood involved.”

Craig Chico, Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council executive director and CEO, is working with Jarmusz to find places that can be opened up in the evenings “to help get the youth off the streets and involved in more productive activities,” Chico said.

Meeting attendees have suggested using sports facilities and providing educational help, counseling, and job assistance. All are “in the initial stages of planning,” Jarmusz said.

Also, Jarmusz described a gang control program to be initiated in Back of the Yards “to not just arrest people” but rather to use “social networking in the community to try to identify issues and solutions” and to develop preventive strategies “to cut down on the number of violent crimes—primarily committed by members of the gang community.”

Safe passage

One initiative the council is working on, in conjunction with the commander and Police Superintendent Jody Weiss, is a “safe passage program, where the goal is to get children home safely from school,” Chico explained. “Commander Jarmusz was very instrumental in getting Supt. Weiss involved with this.”

Community leaders would like to establish “safe havens” such as firehouses, businesses, restaurants, convenience stores, barbershops, and other businesses. “There would be a sign in the window of these ‘safe haven’ locations, and children are encouraged to stop into one if they feel afraid or threatened by anyone,” explained Chico. “This is currently being worked on by recruiting volunteers—parents, school crossing guards, and police officers.

“There has been an awful lot of violence recently in the community, and although we started working on this less than a month ago, we are trying to get this going as soon as possible,” Chico continued. “It does require funding personnel and programming, but it has been a proven success” in other communities “to find something for these kids to do and stay out of trouble, off the streets, and out of gangs.”

As for the council’s dealings with Jarmusz, Chico said, “I give our relationship an A+ so far. He recognizes the gang problem in this community and has a lot of experience in that area, as he spent 17 years as a plainclothes gang detective in the bureau of intelligence and the gang intelligence section.”

Chico feels Ninth District officers and especially Jarmusz have been anxious “to play an active role in maintaining and improving communication. He is the guy for the job.”

The Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council covers the area from Racine Avenue on the east to Pulaski Road on the west and from Garfield Boulevard on the south to the Stevenson expressway/I-55 on the north. To find out more about monthly Community Alternative Policing Strategies meetings in the Ninth District and how to become involved, call (312) 747-8227. For the Back of the Yards Council, call (773) 254-5325 or log on to www.bync.org.

One Response »

  1. This is an exciting article. It’s great to see Jarmusz getting involved at the community level. If police only focus on the crime and not the prevention, we’ll never win this war. Bravo to Jarmusz for getting in the game and working with the neighborhoods. As the CEO of the From the Barrio Foundation, I’m working with at-risk youth and their families both within the school and prison systems. They are smart young men and women and they want more for their lives but often see themselves as locked in, as trapped in the gang lifestyle. We have to work on shifting their perspective to wanting something different so they can overcome the great obstacle of walking away. It’s a life threatening obstacle, so imagine how much work we have to do to help a young person overcome their fear of leaving the gang to then move them into a more productive lifestyle. We have to not just want to punish these people; we have to take the time to care about them as individuals. That’s the ounce of prevention… You can bet I’ll be contacting BYNC to let them know about our program. Thanks for covering this. Corey Blake, CEO From the Barrio Foundation, http://www.fromthebarrio.com.

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