Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) held a virtual meeting on Jan. 20 to address Galewood residents’ concerns about the increase in quality-of-life crimes, such as burglaries and car thefts. 

Taiaferro held the meeting at the request of residents, who wanted to air their concerns directly to police officers. Most of the discussion centered on vehicle thefts, which have been on the rise in recent weeks. 

The alderman said he wanted to bring attention to the District Coordination Officers (DCO), who are police officers charged with reaching out to residents and connecting them with local police officers and whatever services they need to address their issues. 

Several residents complained that they didn’t know the local DCO, let alone how to reach them. Taliaferro’s staff agreed to put their contact information in the upcoming ward email newsletter and the officers encouraged residents to take advantage of it. 

Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Taliaferro regularly invited police officers to his monthly community meetings to report on crime issues in the community and give residents a chance to ask questions and raise concerns. But with the pandemic raging, the community meetings were halted, and Community Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) beat meetings have been intermittent. 

In a follow-up interview, Byron Watson, Taliaferro’s chief of staff, explained that, after Galewood experienced “a few robberies” in December 2020, residents asked for a meeting with local police officers.

“We scheduled the meeting [on Dec. 29] and it was poorly attended, so we rescheduled,” he said. “It was also a way to explain the DCO program to residents to better take advantage of the program.”

The DCO program was originally introduced in 2019, in the 25th District, which includes Galewood and the rest of Austin north of Division Street. The program was rolled out as part of the Chicago Neighborhood Policing Initiative community policing pilot.  

Each DCO is assigned an area made up of three beats and there is usually two DCO per area, to ensure that at least one officer is on duty on any given day. 

Daniel  Arroyo and Mark Flechsig are DCO for the area that includes Beat 2513, which falls entirely within Galewood; Beat 2511, which includes most of Montclare; and Beat 2512, which is split between the two. 

During the Jan. 20 meeting, Taliaferro said that, in addition to robberies, he wanted to discuss “burglaries, garage thefts, bicycle thefts and anything that’s going on in Galewood,” and how the community can work with DCO to prevent them.

“We’re entering a new year, [so we should] try our very best to not only look out for our own properties, but to look out for our neighbors,” he said. “And that requires us to stay in contact with our DCO’s, so we can have issues and things with our community addressed.”

Arroyo said that, in the past 28 days, his area has only seen one robbery, and it was in Montclare. But, at the same time, the area saw 20 vehicle thefts. While Chicago as a whole has seen an increase in carjacking in the past few weeks, Arroyo said that none of them happened in his area and that the vehicle thefts “are happening without any victims in the vehicles.”

Another 25th District officer on the call said that one of the contributing factors is that drivers leave their motors running to warm up without keeping an eye on the car. 

The police officers have put together a flier of burglary and car theft prevention tips. Once it is approved by their higher-ups, they plan to “flier up the neighborhood.” Taliaferro said that his office will also put out a flier of its own.

“I joke about it, but I do stand out at the door as my vehicle is warming up,” the alderman said. “I’ll stand at the door and watch it.”

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