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By Mike Sandrolini
MAYWOOD | Summer officially arrived last week, and villages and cities in the Chicago area usually experience an uptick in overall crime with the warmer weather.
“Usually the winter and summer crimes parallel each other,” said Maywood Police Chief Val Talley. “June and July will have an increase in theft and burglary. I’ll have the same problem during Thanksgiving and Christmas in November and December so there’s no change there. Crime goes down in January and February through about April.”
With this in mind, Talley said he and the police department are proactive and have strategies in place. He said the department increases its patrols around the village. Vacation time for Maywood police officers are curtailed during the summer months.
“Probably a lot of my officers aren’t happy, but we don’t allow a lot of vacation time to be expended during the summer months because that allows me to have more manpower,” Talley said. “I have a good group of officers; even though they might not be happy that they can’t get vacations in premium summer months, unless they have higher seniority, they know at least it’s for a good reason—to protect our community.”
Two part-time officers have been added to the staff, Talley noted, and “they’re already out there in the community.”
“One of them is already up to speed because he was one of our full-timers who went to the Chicago Fire Department and he’s come back to work part time,” he said. “That’s a good thing and he’s from the community so he knows the community.”
The Police Department has a tactical patrol unit, which once used to be deployed during the summer months but now works year-round, Talley said.
“They travel a variety of different hours so that they’re not set on one schedule and are very flexible,” he said. “They address gang activity, narcotics activity and firearm activity which are the three components that drive the different criminalization in the town.”
With regard to gangs, Talley pointed out the work of Maywood Police Lt. Dennis Diaz, the department’s gang commander.
“He’s been able to put together a program,” Talley said. “His function and his role is an investigative supervisor. He has established an expertise in the different types of gang activities. He’s been cooperative with the FBI and the Chicago Police Department and he interacts well with the (Cook County) Sheriff’s Department.
“Last month, we cooperatively worked with the Chicago Police Department; they served a search warrant and confiscated several weapons out of a home of a criminal,” he added. “Those are the kinds of things he’s working with the tactical team on so we can get a lot of the criminal element out of the village.”
Talley is referring to raids in the 700 block of S. 6th Ave. and in the 1300 block of S. 9th Ave. on May 30 during which police seized narcotics, semiautomatic weapons and arrested multiple suspects.
When asked if there’s more or less gang activity in the village, Talley said, “Right now it’s probably the same as last year.”
“The FBI was successful in taking down a lot of the leadership, especially in gangs on the north side,” he said. “We assisted them with some of our reports and intelligence as other agencies did, and that kind of took a lot of the gang activity in our town down. Right now I would say it’s less than it was years ago, but from that point, that doesn’t mean that new activity isn’t on the uptick.”
Curbing gang activity also is important because the vast majority of homicides and shootings in Maywood are gang-related.
“People are coming in to buy drugs and having the territory for drugs and activity,” he said. “That’s what’s being fought over and that’s why you have these conflicts.”
Maywood Alternative Policing Strategies (MAPS) meetings—which the village explains on its website as being “an interactive process between police officers and citizens to mutually develop ways to identify problems and concerns and then assess viable solutions by providing available resources from both the police department and the neighborhoods to address the problems and/or concerns”—have been conducted for several years in four zones throughout Maywood . Talley also encourages residents to get involved in block clubs and neighborhood watch organizations to combat crime.
“By having those block clubs, you get to know who’s in your community,” he said. “There are around 30 block clubs, but they’re all not registered with the village clerk’s office. I think maybe eight are registered.”
Getting youths involved in activities or working during the summer also is something Talley likes to see take place.
“With just under 25,000 residents, we probably have about 7,000 kids,” he said. “I would imagine around 3,500 are in the range of 14 to 20.
“We have a lot of things going on in Maywood, but I still think that it’s not going to capture a lot of the youth in this age range. When you get a lot of kids like that with idle time … idleness is my big problem and my big concern.”