New Tri-Taylor group forms after crime wave
October 5, 2018

By Nathan Worcester

Residents of the Tri-Taylor neighborhood have formed a neighborhood watch organization. They also started a Facebook group for the organization, Tri-Taylor Neighborhood Watch, on August 14 that now has more than 120 members.

“The idea of having a neighborhood watch group and reviving the old one from years ago was something that I have been thinking about doing for the last couple of years,” said Michael Ramstedt, the new group’s co-creator. “But I was always too busy and didn’t want to do it by myself. After the recent rash of summer crimes, I saw my neighbor, Rick Romero, post on Facebook about starting one, so I contacted him and we decided to work together to do so.”

Sergeant Rocco Alioto of the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Communications confirmed police have charged Ronald Moore with five counts of burglary as well as one misdemeanor count of criminal trespass to land following a series of late summer burglaries in and around Tri-Taylor. The area also saw two high-profile shootings on Taylor Street in relatively rapid succession.

Although the recent burglaries and shootings led many Tri-Taylorites to express outrage on social media, some indicators show the area has been safer in August and September of 2018 than during the same period in 2017.

Sergeant Alioto’s data on the 12th District, which includes all of Tri-Taylor east of Western Avenue as well as large swaths of adjoining neighborhoods, indicate the area had fewer murders, shootings, burglaries, motor vehicle thefts, and robberies between August 1 and September 20 of 2018 than during the same period in 2017. Police counted 25 shooting incidents during the 2017 period but only six during the 2018 period. Alioto did not provide data on the 11th District, which includes Tri-Taylor west of Western Avenue.

The Tri-Taylor Community Association (TTCA) Facebook group, a separate organization, has provided a forum for locals to exchange information about neighborhood crime. Nicole Beck, a TTCA administrator, said residents’ current concerns stem partly from violent gang activity and other area crime that began to de-escalate only in 2017.

“Brother’s Barber Shop was at 914 S. Western Ave., and that was the clubhouse for the Traveling Vice Lords,” said Beck. “And so for a couple years we endured daily shootings over west of Western. There was also drug dealing on Western Avenue. So that was a difficult situation for the neighborhood, and I think it’s got all of the hairs on the back of our neck up about what happens around here.”

Aldermanic support

Daniel Egan, spokesperson for Alderman Jason Ervin (28th Ward), whose ward includes most of Tri-Taylor, expressed support for the new neighborhood watch group.

“The alderman looks forward to working with this new community group and all community groups about all issues in the 28th Ward,” said Egan. “Only through robust community engagement and involvement is it possible to address issues of inequality, crime, and enhancing our public schools.”

One of Moore’s alleged victims would not go on record with his name or address for fear of being targeted by other burglars. He described his role in the police’s apprehending Moore, which occurred in part because of he used Amazon’s Ring application in conjunction with his home security cameras.

“One July morning I met my wife at the gym,” the man wrote in a Facebook message. “She headed home and I went to work. Shortly after she frantically calls me she came home to our garage door broken open. She had no idea if the burglar was still present. She checked our Ring camera system and it turns out he struck early [that morning]. Our secure door with the deep bolt? He banged away at it with a large piece of stone from our yard for over ten minutes. Landscapers were working next door, covering the noise. I created a flyer with still shots of the offender’s face which we also posted on social media. Plenty of people would report seeing him and would call the police but would not stick around to ID him.

In August “it happened again,” the man continued. “He returned, trying again to get access to my garage. My new steel door held up, but he did break the lock. He then gained access to my basement, while my wife was upstairs showering. He stole my daughter’s piano keyboard this time. Again, plenty of video footage.

“So using this footage my wife made a new series of screenshots from both robberies and posted them in the neighborhood Facebook page, alerting neighbors,” he noted. “She also posted it on the Ring neighbors app which allows people from other neighborhoods to share their videos. People from Ukrainian Village had footage of the same guy breaking into their houses and garages. We were able to alert the police that this criminal was the very same one and link all the cases.

“Then Sunday, Sept. 2 it happened,” the man continued. “He broke into two homes in the Tri-Taylor area. He stole a Sox jersey from the first one and put it on. He was trying to steal a bike but was interrupted and chased away by the homeowner. Brazenly he returned to try to get the bike that night! The homeowner spotted him, still wearing the Sox jersey and chased him away again. Then he made his way over to Bishop and Taylor and tried to steal a bike there. This is on video. He is still wearing the Sox jersey! The resident recognized him from my wife’s posts on the Ring neighbors app and alerted police. They caught Ronald Moore that night.”

Support and concerns

Although many residents expressed strong support for the watch group, others voiced concerns about racial profiling.

Roxanne Hill-Johnson, who is African American, said she worries in part because of her family’s long history in Tri-Taylor.

“My people have been over here quite some time,” said Hill-Johnson. “They were over here when it was all Italian and Italians were breaking down my aunt’s window every day. And finally, they had a police car sit in front of the house every day until it just stopped.”

Hill-Johnson said someone recently called her son “the n-word” while walking through the neighborhood.

“Some people leave windows unlocked and doors open,” added Hill-Johnson. “I don’t think anything will help other than people just being vigilant. Another police car is not going to help anything over here. They’re not going to give us one because this is a blue area in Chicago. Downtown is a blue area. Now, if you go west of here, it’s a red area, and they put cars where cars are most needed.”

Another resident who wished to remain anonymous for fear of being bullied on social media said she and others have been prevented from joining the Tri-Taylor Neighborhood Watch Facebook group because they have expressed concerns about the group’s potential for racial profiling. She also said white men dominate the group’s committees.

Beck, who is white, wrote that claims of racial profiling in or by the watch group were “completely unfounded and inflammatory rhetoric….We move into Tri-Taylor because of its ethnic diversity! We can’t be swayed by Trumpian altright fears prevalent in other [pockets] of the nation. This is Chicago and [we are] proud to live in such a diverse city and neighborhood!”

Hill-Johnson attended the Tri-Taylor Neighborhood Watch’s second meeting on Sept. 12. The meeting started at the Slide Bar but soon migrated to the much quieter Damenzo’s Pizza down the block.

Meeting topics focused on the local area. A few attendees voice concern about foliage blocking a particular police camera and making it ineffective. Others discussed progress in developing the group’s various committees. One committee addresses explaining and promoting the Ring application, while another handles package theft and improper package delivery. While the group intends to organize regular watch patrols, there will be no walkers. The group also has a personal self-defense committee.

After the meeting, Hill-Johnson expressed cautious optimism about the group.

“They need to stay a little bit more on task, but things happen,” said Hill-Johnson. “I’m realistic in my thoughts as far as some things that are not going to happen.”

Neighbors had a range of advice for residents seeking to protect their property or persons.

“Make sure to use alarms even when home,” wrote the resident whose house allegedly was burgled by Moore.

“Be aware. Be involved. Be educated,” wrote Ramstedt.

“If you don’t have any felonies, get a gun,” said Hill-Johnson.

Gregory Kirsch, Chair of the Tri-Taylor Community Association, welcomed the new watch group.

“As to the Tri-Taylor Neighborhood Watch, we are excited they are active and we promote their activities on our Facebook page and encourage all our members to participate and help the Chicago Police Department make our neighborhood safe,” Kirsch said.”

Community activist Eric Pulia (see article, page 3), said that the Tri-Taylor Neighborhood Watch “has formed committees and goals as of now, and look for them to be more involved in the future.”

For the Tri-Taylor Neighborhood Watch Facebook page, log on to https://www.facebook.com/groups/1059889377503640/.

Editor’s note: Robert Kingett also contributed to this article.