In moments of crisis communities define themselves. So it was last week in Forest Park as a large crowd turned out for a Neighborhood Watch meeting in the wake of the shock of a two-flat being shot up by a rogue thug.
Two things. Great impulse for residents to want to gather up with neighbors to hear a clear story and respond with vigor and determination. And great for Forest Park’s police leadership and village administration for responding with transparency and candor.
No one likes what happened. But who needs the mopes on Facebook decrying that Forest Park isn’t what it used to be and they’re glad they moved out to DuPage, or maybe they’ve fled to Iowa by now. We need more Forest Park pride and grit than the handwringers show.
And that starts when everyone in the room is treated with the respect of an adult who has a role to play in grabbing the village by its lapels and supporting it, even in disquieting times.
Chief Tom Aftanas and his command staff were plain spoken in explaining the circumstances, describing the immediate and mid-term response and then laying out the plan going forward. One thing we liked was the acknowledgement that policing is a finite resource which requires choices and priorities. Hearing the cops say that more routine patrolling for drug-related offenses has been reduced to focus more on the immediate and impactful scourge of carjackings is just real life.
Its not nonsense to say, though, that having a packed house of concerned citizens is the best way to multiply those finite police resources. We do, each of us, need to step up our watch on our neighborhood and offer responsive, though not paranoid, outreach to 911 when an action seems out of place or acutely dangerous.
Good work also by Mayor Tony Calderone in offering a steady but determined face of village government in a tough moment. Commissioners Rachell Entler and Joe Byrnes were also on hand and made cogent comments. Anthony Clark, community activist and candidate for Congress, attended and has since been touting the idea of outfitting each home in town with a video camera as a deterrent.
We appreciate the village’s candor and the absence of defensiveness. Things happen. More things will happen. It is all in our response as citizens in pulling together, being drawn together rather than being divided and fearful.
A final point. A small but important one. There were opportunities to live stream this public meeting. They should have been eagerly pursued. This is viable technology which is widely available and had the potential to expand the reach of the positive and important message the village was working to put forward. The suggestion that some in the audience might be made uncomfortable in having their words or images shared outside the room does not wash. Come to a public meeting at village hall and your right to privacy is not a priority. Public meeting. Public space. Public issue.