Preventing crime was the theme last Saturday as members of CAPS and the Illinois State Police held a community safety and crime prevention fair at Amundsen Park, located at 6300 W. Bloomingdale.

The event allowed residents of the 25th District to speak with law enforcement officials, obtain information on guarding themselves against ID theft and domestic violence, and learn about hotlines to call to check up on elderly neighbors during the summer heatwave.

According to the City of Chicago Crime Index Report, crime is actually down in most parts of the Chicago area, especially murder and arson, which have dropped 25 and 17 percent respectively, in the last year. Nevertheless, CAPS Lt. Ricardo Pavon and the Chicago Police Department felt the fair would allow community residents to interface with department officials and have their own “quality of life” issues within the 25th District addressed.

“Many of the officers in attendance had the day off today, but they wanted to come to speak to those in the community about their concerns,” said Pavon. “It is important to us that those in the 25th District take advantage of the information available to them through the various crime prevention outlets. It will help lower crime and allow the public to avoid victimization.”

Recently appointed 25th District Commander Juan Riviera, attended the event, calling it “a good start.” He hopes at future crime prevention events, community participants will have the opportunity to speak as well as listen and learn.

“It is very important that the police officials know what is going on in every part of the 25th District and interact with those people who live there,” said Commander Rivera. “This includes the gang members, who, while threatening to take part in illegal activities, are still part of the community.”

Rivera says given the fact that the 25th District encompasses such a large portion of the West Side, each person surely will have quality of life issues that are more pressing than others, making their input essential.

“Lawndale and Austin don’t have the same type of problems,” said Rivera. “That’s why it’s essential to hear from the residents so we know what they are dealing with and come up with helpful solutions.”

Chicago Police Detective Charles Udell spoke about safeguarding oneself from identity theft, which is becoming one of the most rapidly growing crimes in the country. Because it’s considered a white-collar crime, the penalty is not nearly as steep, and it is extremely difficult to trace since most victims do not discover the fraud until long after the criminal has made off with over $1,000 in cash using their identification.

“It takes an estimated 100 hours of work to clear up the record of the average victim of ID theft,” says Udell. “Most people lose between $1,500 and $5,000. It has become much more prevalent now because it is easier to pull off, with the boom in cell phone service and the Internet, both can be means of ascertaining information that will allow criminals to steal identities.”

Officer Evelyn Lampignano, 25th district Domestic Violence liaison, says that the biggest mistake made by those who live within earshot of a violent relationship is assuming that it’s merely a private matter.

“It is very important for those in the community to reach out and seek out help for those they know are being abused,” said Lampignano. “There may be a variety of reasons why that woman or child has not sought help in their volatile relationship, but we in the community must speak up for those who may feel powerless.”

Paul Bacarella, an officer who works with the Mayor Daley Senior Isolation Taskforce, which handles checking up on the elderly during the dog days of summer, spoke about protecting oneself from the threat of heat exhaustion, particularly the elderly who are especially vulnerable.

“It’s important that you make sure to periodically check on all aged relatives and neighbors this time of year,” said Bacarella. “Many older people are hesitant to invest in air conditioners because they are concerned about the cost and consequently they put themselves at risk, particularly those who do not have regular contact with friends or relatives. Those that live near an elderly man or woman should be mindful of the danger and call us if they have any concerns about their safety in the heat.”

Those concerned about the safety of senior relatives or neighbors can call the CPD office at 312/746-4660.