Monday, March 31, 2014 || By Michael Romain
Saturday, March 22, 2014, MAYWOOD — Attempting to foster greater collaboration between local government entities and the business community, Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins and Police Chief Valdimir Talley co-hosted a Business Watch meeting inside Village Chambers.
Acting Village Manager David Myers; President and CEO of the Maywood Chamber of Commerce, Edwin Walker IV; Maywood Village Clerk Viola Mims; and Trustees Michael Rogers, Toni Dorris and Audrey Jaycox were also in attendance. Among the business represented were McDonald’s, Seaway Supply and Global Estates.
According to a handout, the Business Watch “is a partnership between the business community, local authorities, the police, and other organizations that represent business interest. It enables individual businesses to take part in preventing and reducing crime through sharing information, raising awareness, and improving communications through meetings and a functional ‘calling tree.’”
“We want to encourage you to be in our village,” said Mayor Perkins. “We’re asking you to work with us, because believe it or not, we are going to bring some economic development here in this community.”
The Mayor said that the Village intends to play its part in providing better services and Board leadership to try to lure more business to the area to offset the heavy tax burden that Maywood residents bear.
Chief Talley invited business owners to attend Village board meetings, in addition to the weekly Maywood Alternative Policing Strategy (MAPS) meetings held weekly by the police department.
While punctuated by a show of gratitude–Mr. Walker commended Chief Talley’s professionalism and competence, calling his recent appointment a “ray of light”–many business owners in the audience responded to the Mayor’s and Chief’s calls for cooperation with some pushback, albeit modulated, of their own.
Some expressed disappointment with the police department’s responsiveness to their concerns, particularly in emergency situations.
Ray Nelson, who owns two McDonald’s franchises in Maywood–one on Roosevelt Road and another on 1st and Lake–recounted several experiences of his own.
“One concern I have at both of our Maywood McDonald’s locations is that we’ve had several instances of loitering and theft happening at the restaurant and when we call police it is 20-30 minutes before officers arrive,” he said.
“Most of our issues arise at the 5th and Roosevelt location. I’ve personally called 911 to have an issue resolved and its 20-30 minutes before reinforcements arrive.”
Another business owner said that he’d experienced a similar problem.
Maywood Community Relations Officer Pirsia Allen and Sgt. Daryl Fairley, in an empathetic tone, advised the owners that anytime that happens, they should call the station again and ask for a shift supervisor.
“We apologize for that. We try to make it to the scene in five minutes, although that feels like an eternity,” said Sgt. Fairley, before updating Mr. Nelson on a specific case that had recently come up.
He said that his department had correctly identified a group of juveniles that were causing trouble at the Roosevelt Road location, a claim that Mr. Nelson confirmed.
But this didn’t quite go far enough in repairing the somewhat strained relationship between business owners and Maywood police–a problem to which this very meeting was designed to address.
Even the Mayor chimed in on her dissatisfactory past experiences with the local emergency response, pushing back on Officer Allen’s advice about calling the shift supervisor. She noted that sometimes when she would call back, the shift supervisor wasn’t present.
“When you call and it takes so long, then you’re reluctant to call again,” she said.
The Chief and his presenting officers, however, seemed focused less on litigating the past than establishing a stronger foundation of mutual trust between the department and the business community.
Trustee Audrey Jaycox addressed a rather sensitive area of the Village’s past, one on which the department seemed adamant to press the reset button.
“Too many times in the past, when people would call the police their names were given,” she said.
Toward the end of his tenure, former Maywood Police Chief Tim Curry, Mr. Talley’s predecessor, noted that he had aggressively rooted out these kinds of practices, but some residents’ suspicions seem not to have diminished.
Officer Allen said that the department once had a confidential phone number for businesses to call in for drug activity. He said that when the number is implemented again, business owners would be notified.
Sgt. Fairley, however, insisted that skepticism of the police department shouldn’t hinder business owners from calling police when problems arise. And even testifying in court, if the circumstance presented itself.
“That’s one of the major things with business owners who don’t want to call the police. That’s a major problem we have with our community right now, but that also hinders our ability to prosecute people to the utmost,” he said.
“A lot of these guys aren’t scared by a Village ordinance citation, but we need the business owners to stick with us and go to court with us. You guys have to work with us. You have to sign these complaints and let them know you won’t tolerate that activity in front of your business.”
In addition to discussing his proposal to implement an anti-gang unit, Chief Talley said that his department plans on printing out stickers that say, “No Guns.” By displaying the sign in their windows, they’d be allowing the police an opening to confiscate illegal firearms in such a way that doesn’t violate Illinois’s new Concealed Carry law, which allows residents to carry licensed guns in public places.
“I have a big concern about gunplay in the Village and so Officer Allen is going to get us some stickers that say ‘No Guns’,” the Chief said.
“I’m asking that you all to put those in your windows. My intent is that when someone comes into your business with a firearm, I’m going to take it off of them whether they have a concealed carry or not. Right now, we’re working on the Village ordinance so that matters of concealed carry do not come into play for the Village so it can strengthen our role as we address firearm issues. I’m a proponent of firearms but not for illegal firearms.”
Officer Allen urged business owners to provide their names and numbers so that the police would have contact information in the event that they receive alarm notifications and need to go inside the premises to check for intruders.
Chief Talley, acknowledging the department’s past problems with its surveillance camera technology, tried reassuring residents and business owners by emphasizing the new service agreement with Current Technology Corporation (CTC), the company that installed the cameras, and his department’s renewed focus on better management of the surveillance system.
“We have a company called Current Technologies and we just re-entered a contract with them. For whatever reason, the cameras weren’t being managed appropriately. They will be managed appropriately now. We’re looking at Current to come back out to do repairs to cameras that are inoperable and they made a proposal to me for cameras that will augment those that are already existing. Some of the cameras were being rotated when they needed to be fixed in place. That’s the staff’s problem, too, because they could’ve fixed to them to an extent, but they weren’t trained up.”
Both the police department and representatives from various Village departments struck a tone of reconciliation and collaboration.
Maywood Village Clerk Viola Mims said that her office is making sure that businesses are informed of the ordinances that are already on the books and that the filing process necessary to do business is smooth for owners.
“We are doing our best to assist and make sure that the ordinance regarding business and liquor licenses are being upheld and we are making sure that everything is being implemented in a timely and effective manner,” she said.
At the end of the meeting, owners and residents in attendance were given posters that read, “We watch, we care, we call the police”–a slogan that government officials hope will be less a reflection of rhetoric than one of reality. VFP
To access the Village Ordinance Book, click here (Refer to Title XI: Business Regulations and Title XIII: General Offenses).