By Nona Tepper
In 2007, Anthony Clark was grazed by a bullet, the night before he was supposed to deploy for a military tour in the Middle East and Asia.
Physically, he was fine. But the event changed him in other ways. He didn't go to Turkey. He opposes personal ownership of weapons.
"I had to work through my emotions," Clark recalled. "Being afraid to go outside, being wary of large crowds, not trusting, didn't have any empowerment, zero ownership of my community. I don't want anybody else to have to feel that."
The experience, along with having his car stolen four years ago in Oak Park, and recent attendance at a local Neighborhood Watch meeting, inspired Clark to set up a fundraiser to buy 100 security cameras for Forest Park residents through his nonprofit Suburban Unity Alliance. Clark, an instructor at Oak Park and River Forest High School, community activist, and a Congressional candidate, has so far raised about $45 toward his $250,000 goal. He insists the fundraiser is not a political stunt.
"I honestly feel like my name's already out there," he said.
Rather, he views the fundraiser as an extension of the work he already does with Suburban Unity Alliance, which he said raised money for security cameras for a church in Pilsen, bought hand warmers for the disadvantaged in Forest Park, and organized a protest against the racist policies of a local bar. If Clark raises the necessary funds, he plans to coordinate with Forest Park police to distribute the cameras in strategic public locations. The cameras would be privately run and, if an incident occurs, their owners would turn over footage to police. He also views them as a deterrent to crime — i.e., wannabe criminals would see a security camera on a residence and think twice before breaking into a home.
But Mayor Anthony Calderone questions the logic behind the initiative. Calderone, who is also the founder of Illinois Alarm Service, a security firm, said most people position cameras so they screen their home, not the street in front of them. If the cameras are privately-run, he wonders whether they will capture anything beyond residents' front porches. He also wonders who will install and maintain the cameras.
Clark's "running for public office," Calderone said. "So sometimes initiatives like this are more about getting your name out there."