A Riverside man whose home was the target of an alleged home invasion in June has asked officials to consider blocking off Berkeley Road at Harlem Avenue to prevent anyone from entering the village there.

Berkeley Road resident Steven O’Donnell made his case directly to elected officials at the Riverside Village Board meeting on July 19, saying the village needed to pay more attention to minor gateways to the community, like his street.

“While being a very safe community, we have to be careful about our entrances and exits,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell said that he and his wife were in bed on Sunday, June 17 at about 8:10 a.m. when they heard the doorbell ring. They ignored it, thinking, perhaps, that it was a package being delivered.

“Shortly thereafter we heard loud noises,” O’Donnell said. “Our side door has been smashed through, broken into while we’re in the house.”

O’Donnell was able to scare off whoever was breaking in, and he wasn’t able to see if it was one or more people. He did see the getaway vehicle drive across his neighbor’s front yard and flee the area on Harlem Avenue.

“It’s obviously a very scary thing to have happen,” he said.

O’Donnell said that Berkeley Road’s easy access via Harlem Avenue played a part in his home being targeted, saying it could have happened to any of his neighbors. 

Located in the far northeast corner of the village, immediately south of the Canadian National Railway tracks, Berkeley Road is the first entry to Riverside as you head southbound on Harlem Avenue.

The street can be used as a short cut by southbound motorists to avoid the light at Longcommon Road and Harlem Avenue. 

“It’s a residential street,” he said. “It should not be a through street. It invites this sort of thing, because this was a crime of opportunity. Whoever did this knows they could easily get in and get out.”

O’Donnell also mentioned that the stretch of Longcommon Road immediately south of Berkeley Road is blighted. The vacant TitleMax building at 2704 Harlem Ave. recently was a target for graffiti.

While elected officials did not discuss the subject, which was brought up during the public comment portion of the July 19 meeting, Village President Ben Sells in a follow-up interview said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of closing off Berkeley Road, but said he’d like to see some data first.

“I’d be terrified if someone did that to me,” he said, regarding the home invasion, “but we can’t respond on that basis. We have to see if it makes sense from a traffic and safety basis.”

Sells said village hall gets requests to cul-de-sac village entry streets somewhat frequently – citing Shenstone and Westover roads as two examples. 

There are more than 20 streets that serve as entry points to the village. Some of them, like Lindberg and York are short, residential streets much like Berkeley Road, which dead end into other residential streets.

“If you close one street off, you push traffic to other streets,” Sells said.

Sells said the village may seek to compile traffic data for Berkeley Road to get a better sense of how many vehicles may be using the road as a shortcut. The village could also experiment by temporarily closing the street off and seeing what the effect is on neighboring roads like Longcommon, York and Shenstone.

“I’m not closed to the idea,” Sells said. “I always want to have something that justifies it with data.”

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