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The epicenter of concern is about a four-block area on the near west side of the city, where Victorian houses built more than a century ago line the streets. About 25 residents attended a City Council meeting this week, asking police and other officials to do more to protect their crumbling neighborhood from prostitution and drug dealers.
He said a neighbor recently pointed out two prostitutes to him. They lived in an apartment two doors down from his home. He presented a list of possible solutions, including publishing the photos and names of those convicted of prostitution. Other suggestions included stepping up code enforcement and going after landlords who allow prostitution. Residents attributed some of the problems to the absence of a police officer who lived near the neighborhood before his recent deployment to Iraq as a member of the U.
Coast Guard Reserves. The police veteran participated in the Resident Officer Program of Elgin, or ROPE, a community initiative that encourages officers to live in city-owned houses in crime-prone neighborhoods. Some who attended the meeting asked that another officer be assigned to that live-in role. Police Chief Lisa Womack acknowledged a possible lack of communication between residents and the Police Department since the officer went to Iraq. She encouraged residents to call or the department's non-emergency number -- -- when they have concerns.
The crime rate in the area has dropped 11 percent over last year, she said. But she said the department is aware the neighborhood is a "hot spot" and that officers have targeted prostitution and drug sales as well as parole violations. Five prostitution arrests were made in June. Since the beginning of the year, 19 drug-related crimes were reported, Womack said. Many of those crimes were cleared up after drug sweeps led to arrests at an apartment complex in the block of Locust Street, she said.
On July 21, the Police Department will host a community safety gathering with similar events to follow. Mayor Ed Schock said he is confident police and city officials can deal with the situation. He said he was encouraged by the willingness of residents to band together to keep their neighborhood safe. Mark Minter, property manager and a resident of an apartment complex in the block of North Bristol Street, described a nearby house as a "drive through" for drug deals.