In the wake of a pair of unusually violent crimes committed on consecutive days in late January, Riverside’s police chief at the Feb. 7 village board meeting outlined a series of crime prevention efforts aimed at making the village less attractive to criminals.

In addition, members of the village board voted unanimously to approve spending up to $130,000 to implement a program that will bring high-definition surveillance cameras to key areas of the village.

The first group of surveillance cameras will be placed in and around the village’s downtown. A second phase, which could come later this year, would focus on determining the best locations for cameras along Harlem Avenue.

“This is going to be ready to roll out quickly,” Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said of the first set of surveillance cameras. “Some of that will depend on weather … and then we will start in earnest and work on that program when the weather breaks.”

Crime prevention initiatives

Weitzel said he would be inviting the landlords of all multifamily buildings in Riverside to a seminar on improving security at their properties. He said he would work in concert with the head of the village’s community development department to draft a letter to send to landlords inviting them to learn more about security measures such as signage, lighting, security cameras, door systems and better ways to screen potential tenants.

“It’s going to be voluntary,” said Weitzel. “At least it’ll be the start of a conversation in what we can help them do in the multiunit dwellings.”

The chief also said he was inviting residents throughout the village to contact police if they wish to have someone come by and do property walkthroughs, pointing out opportunities to improve lighting, garage door security and install video doorbells.

Weitzel said his department has already reached out to Ring, the most popular of the video doorbell companies, and will reach out to another, called Nest, to see if the firms might be interested in giving Riverside residents a discount on the doorbells and provide assistance in installing them.

Residents can also sign a waiver allowing police to enter their homes when they are not there if there’s a report something is amiss, such as a teen drinking party.

Riverside police will also begin to make their presence more pronounced on the streets by remaining in their squad cars in various locations around the village when they are writing reports.

“Maybe they could park on Forest Avenue or Pine or Groveland or Lincoln or Selborne … and they can sit there for 15 or 20 minutes and type their report, which I think will get a good visibility in that area,” Weitzel told trustees on Feb. 7.

Weitzel also urged residents to call police whenever they see something out of the ordinary going on their neighborhoods.

“That’s why we’re here, that’s why you pay taxes for police services,” Weitzel said.

Weitzel said the department in 2018 received 1,600 calls regarding suspicious people, circumstances and noise, so residents are engaged. However, some incidents have gone unreported that might have made a difference.

In a separate interview, Weitzel revealed that about two weeks prior to the Dec. 25 home invasion on West Quincy Street a resident observed some sort of altercation after midnight involving someone who lived at the home that was targeted. However, the shouting match lasted about 45 seconds and the witness didn’t call it in to police.

“Don’t ever not call because you think you’re bothering us,” Weitzel said.

Surveillance cameras

The first phase of the surveillance camera program will cost about $65,000 and will include up to nine cameras in and around Riverside’s downtown, according to information contained in the online packet for the Feb. 7 village board meeting.

Two of the cameras will be positioned at the intersection of Woodside/Kimbark/Park Place, including a multi-head camera that will be able to monitor north and south bound Woodside Road, southbound Kimbark Avenue and westbound Park Place. Another pan-tilt-zoom camera at the location will be able to sweep the area.

In the downtown area, cameras are slated to be placed both inside and outside the train depot, not only to monitor the platforms but to also sweep Longcommon Road from Burlington to Quincy Street.

Weitzel also said the owner of La Barra was receptive to the village mounting a camera on that building. While the board packet indicates that a pan-tilt-zoom camera is planned for the water tower, Weitzel told the Landmark that camera is unlikely if the other cameras can sweep the area sufficiently.

Downtown was the area chosen to roll out the initiative, Weitzel said, because it was easier for the village to manage. Harlem Avenue and First Avenue are trickier, since any cameras mounted in the right-of-way require permission of the Illinois Department of Transportation and other access to electricity is limited in the public way.

The village is open to working with commercial property owners who would be receptive to the village mounting cameras on their buildings and also paying for the cost of installation and electricity.

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