Good morning, everyone. In response to the two homicides that have happened in the last week on Beat 1411 (the one on California and the one at Schubert/Albany), 1st Ward Alderman Joe "Proco" Moreno called a community meeting this past Wednesday, the 25th. This meeting occurred started at 6:00pm and it was held at the 14th District station. I had my Beat meeting the same night, so I could not make it to this meeting. But I do have a very, very good account of the meeting from a reader who lives in the area of where these two murders occurred, that wishes to remain anonymous. On that note, I will share the account I have been given, and then I will add my personal opinion to all of it. Lastly, but certainly not least, once this post is published, feel free to add your voice to the post. Civilized and on point, of course. So here is the account I've been given.
"...The meeting went pretty well...There were about 60 people there, who voiced various concerns and complaints, mostly regarding the police and city response to the recent shootings. (14th District Commander) Flores did her usual droning on about how they're "aware of the problem" and "are taking action" and managing to make two gang shootings within a week sound boring. I don't know how she does that, but it's a talent I'm glad I don't have. Deputy Chief Escalante was there from Area 5 (apparently he used to be Commander at the 14th and let me tell you, I wish he were still there because I think we'd be having a much different experience with the police if he were still there instead of Flores), and he was able to address the immediate actions the police are taking - putting more police on the streets, adding additional cars, diverting a few cars from Wicker Park during the evenings to 1411 and 1412, bringing in the gang unit, etc. which was very encouraging. He did tell us that part of the issue is resources, which we knew, but he also told us that 14 is NOT losing any personnel with this city plan to send 500 officers to the west and south...
A lot of talk about the 911 problems, which is where Flores got defensive again. Apparently the 911 office is part of the Office of Emergency Management, NOT part of the police department, and there's a different set of criteria for prioritizing calls. While you may call in to 911 with "Someone ran past with a gun, he had a blue jacket on and red shoes, he was going east on Diversey," the 911 operator may not give all that information to the police dispatcher, who then may not give all the information to the police officers. So there was some discussion of having someone - not a flunky - from the 911 department come to the next meeting. It's like there's a massive disconnect between the public, the 911 service, and the police and for some reason, no one can straighten it out. Incomplete information is being given out, wrong addresses, etc. and only some of it is people being confused when they call 911.
Moreno said some really good things about how the city was going after gang members using things like building violations and citations for unlicensed businesses, etc. Gamboa, in particular, is being hit with thousands of dollars in fines for building violations. He's using every resource he can find to convince the people permitting gang members in their houses that it's not in their best interests to continue doing that.
And speaking of Gamboa, guess who showed up at the meeting? Sal Gamboa himself, father of Jesus Gamboa, the reason people in 1411 stopped going to the CAPS meetings. Who wants to bitch about gang members when the father of the gang members/drug dealers is sitting there staring at you? Anyway, I'd had to go shortly before this point, so I'm just telling you what the people there said: Gamboa started talking - as he has at many CAPS meetings, including the last one - about how he needs the community to help him, how he can't control his children (he has one remaining son, in his mid/upper twenties, also an active MLD), how he can't be blamed and blah blah blah, and THEN he starts complaining to Moreno that he'd invited Moreno to the wake/funeral and Moreno hadn't come, and going on about how Moreno hadn't done enough to help him.
Moreno, bless his rock-star heart, apparently lost his fabled cool and told Gamboa that he wasn't likely to go to the wake, seeing as there would be 100 gang members there mourning the loss of one of their own, and that Moreno was hardly going to go into a place where he was likely to get killed himself and leave his daughter without a father. And then he told Gamboa to leave. Escalante escorted Gamboa out. Up until Gamboa walked in, the meeting had been ALL ABOUT Gamboa, and the problems at that house, and the frustration the neighbors were feeling, but when the man walked in, everybody shut up. And with good reason. They/we live around the corner, down the street, on the same block from this guy and everyone, EVERYONE, knows that his older kid is an active gang member and that him and his friends deal drugs and own guns. The problem is that when the thugs are hanging out at Gamboa's house, the cops can't do anything - Gamboa owns two houses next door to one another (2914 and 2916 N. Washtenaw) and gives them permission to be there. So the cops can't arrest them for loitering or trespassing, because they're not doing either - they're just being scary and intimidating and probably dealing drugs, but with the full permission of the property owner. The house is across the street and about a quarter of a block from the neighborhood park (playlot), which is where a lot of the little kids in the area go during the summer. Part of the problem with the Gamboas is that his kids were dealing and smoking weed right out in front of the little playlot. Someone in that house HAS to have a scanner, though, because the thugs would scatter like cockroaches as soon as the cops were about to show up.
The rest of the meeting was about what we, as citizens, can do to combat the gangs. "Positive loitering" was suggested, where we all go sit on our porches or whatever, but I don't think anyone really thinks that's a strategy that's going to have much effect on these knuckleheads. There was a lot of discussion about streetlights, since around here, the gang members are breaking into the wiring boxes and cutting the wires so the whole block or half a block goes dark and they can commit crimes in peace. Every time the city fixes the wiring, the gang members break into the boxes again. The kid who was killed early Tuesday was killed just under the only dead streetlight in that alley - the guy who owned the house was at the meeting and brought that up.
It looks like the police and city officials aren't abandoning us, and are putting as many resources as they can in our area to combat the rise in gang violence. There was some gossip about the first murder actually NOT being gang-related, that the victim was killed over some comments he'd made to the accused shooter (who's a 17-year-old neighbor from the 3100 block of Elston) and his girlfriend while walking down the street, but that's unsubstantiated. I'll tell you, though, that after that meeting, District 14 and Flores are on notice that there are a LOT of people watching what they're doing and taking careful note of whether or not the police are following through on their promises. I have a lot more faith in Escalante - I've been told by various sources that he's an excellent police officer, which is why he was promoted, and he's certainly a far more effective communicator than Velgara, Flores or Dowd.
(Interestingly, while Velgara was at the meeting, he was putting out cups of water and getting more chairs for people - he didn't take any kind of active role in the meeting at all, which leads me to believe he's on the shit list, as he should be. He gave Gamboa a block of time at the last CAPS meeting to sit there and tell all of us that everything was just FINE over at his house, that his neighbors were the problem, that the neighbors were wasting their time calling 911 when there was nothing illegal going on at his house and his kids were kind of a problem. This, after Velgara KNEW that Moreno had told Gamboa to stop coming to the meetings because his presence was making it difficult for his neighbors to talk about the problems they were having. Velgara retires on July 3rd, so there's not much they can do to him, but I honestly think that if Velgara had done his job, Jesus Gamboa wouldn't be dead.)
Moreno pretty much ran the meeting...he really showed that he was a stand-up guy last night. He wasn't going to let Gamboa come in and derail the meeting and intimidate people the way he usually does, and I'm told Moreno really told the guy off in a very forceful way. Rey Colon came in towards the end, since the second murder happened in the 35th ward, but he didn't participate all that much.
The meeting took close to two and a half hours, and there were enough people there that the cops had to bring in extra chairs and it was still standing room only. Residents are really demanding some accountability from the cops, which I think is a really great thing. It's one thing to sit in a CAPS meeting and be told by someone in a uniform that you, as a citizen, aren't entitled to question what the cops are doing, or make a complaint about how the police are going (about) something. But a room full of 60 citizens, people feel more free to talk, I think,".
Based on this account, I think that this meeting was an excellent one. Even though I don't live in the area of these two murders, it is still very promising to see that Alderman Moreno care this much. It's very inspiring to me that he called such a meeting to address this. I'm really glad the residents of Beat 1411 showed up in large numbers, too. Community participation is needed in all of Chicago, and these people seem to understand that very well. I think that all of it is very inspiring, and more importantly, this meeting has sent out a message to Gamboa and others that 1411 cannot and will not back down from this matter. They are highly upset about the gang activity taking place in their area, and have every right to be. Enough is enough. There should not have been two murders within a week, within a few blocks from each other. However, it does sound to me that the 14th District CPD needs to take more accountability, particularly Commander Flores. And she needs to stop getting so defensive when citizens want to ask questions. We have a right to know what the police are doing in our communities in regards to crime and disorder without being snapped at by a Police Officer, and Flores needs to comprehend that.
Deputy Chief Escalante is definitely on the ball with all of this. I think it's great that Beats 1411 and 1412 will have additional officers working those two Beats in the evening. In my personal opinion, I don't think all of those units should've been assigned to the Wicker Park area in the first place. It's not like they're really experiencing the gang shootings and conflicts. Yes, I'm aware there's a robbery problem in Wicker Park, but other neighborhoods in Chicago also do without what seems like an army of officers coming to patrol each night. These officers are definitely more useful working Beats 1411 and 1412.
As far as the OEMC problem goes, that's a problem all of us are experiencing, I think. This account provides confirmation to that. The people at OEMC are humans just like us, yes, but they don't realize that there job description says they are the difference between life and death for all Chicago residents, visitors, Police Officers, and etc., and for that I have to say they are big screw ups that need to seek work in another profession. The work they do at OEMC seems not to be cut out for them. Having said, I think it's time a bunch of us from all Avondale/Logan Square Beats (1411, 1412, 1413, 1414, 1421, 1422, 1431, 1432, 1433, 1434, 1732, 1733, 2523, 2524, 2525 and 2535) need to get together and arrange one big meeting with someone high up in OEMC to address these issues we have with the call-takers and dispatchers. Yes, I realize there are good and bad people at EVERY job, but the bad outweighs the good at OEMC, and most of the people working there are probably capable doing a far greater job than they do. They just don't want to. If that's the case, fire them all and replace them. Personally, I'm tired of my safety being in jeopardy with a bunch of lazy pricks from OEMC (if any of you want, I can most certainly get into that with you over e-mail). And another thing. It is not fair that the Chicago Police Department gets blamed for something when OEMC screws up. Remember, people, the person behind that headset is most likely not an officer, nor likely ever will be. They are citizens just like you and me.
It must've took Sal Gamboa courage and guts to show up to that meeting and do what he did. I honestly cannot believe he would walk in and cause problems in the presence of nearly six dozen residents and probably quite a few CPD and public officials the way he did. I feel sorry that everyone had to get quiet at that meeting when he walked in, but hey, it's worth to be safer than sorry. I do give a big applause Moreno and Escalante from removing him from the meeting. Those residents did not need that. It's bad enough they're dealing with two homicides plus a whole slew of new gang activity. So a great job to Moreno and Escalante for not letting him completely derailing that meeting.
I'm personally a bit shocked with the way Sgt. Velgara has acted towards these people on Beat 1411. He seems like a good enough Sergeant. But now hearing these allegations against him makes me think twice, and it confirms to me that I've been right all along in my opinion that most officers working out of the 14th District are corrupt and do not want to do their job. Not all of them, though. There are a few good ones here and there. But in general, the 14th District is corrupt. Back to the topic at hand, Velgara should have NEVER gaven Gamboa time at the last 1411 CAPS Beat meeting to talk about how the community is the problem. I pose this question to anyone who knows Gamboa: how the hell is the community the problem? Are we the ones involved in drug deals and gangbanging? Hell no. You are.
So wrapping up, I think from this account, this meeting was a really, really good one, and that is was needed. It's so good to hear that nearly six dozen people packed a room for this. I'd like to thank all the involved residents on Beat 1411 for caring about your community, and keep fighting the good fight against people like the Gamboas. As the old saying goes, "there's a light at the end of the tunnel", and your light is coming.