Rogers Park, meet your new police commander.
Thomas Waldera, a former Area North commander who has worked in the Chicago Police Department for 26 years, is the North Side neighborhood's third commander this year. James Roussell, the former commander, was relocated in April to a position in Area Central, and his successor, Terrence Williams, was relocated to the South Side after one week on the job.
In a speech that lasted more than half an hour, Waldera told a crowd of over 40 locals Monday night that his eight years as a commander of the Gang Enforcement North Division make him "uniquely qualified" to tackle the district's persistent gang troubles. And he said they can expect to see a lot more of him in his new role.
"I will attend all the beat meetings," he said. "I absolutely intend on using you all as a resource, in whatever capacity I can."
Waldera said violence-reduction efforts in the district are already paying off--with just seven shootings this year, down from 19 by this time last year. Some of the recent short- and long-term efforts he highlighted include:
-CPD has added ten "bike qualified" police officers who patrol by bicycle to District 24. Two of them ride during the day, and eight ride at night, Waldera said. Half of them have been deployed to the lakefront, while the other half are in high-crime areas known for their gang activity.
-Police are tracking gang graffiti and learning to tell the difference between signs that violence is about to erupt and less-harmful "tagging." "We can tell the difference immediately," Waldera said.
-Waldera said he will meet with local school leaders at least once a month, and prepare local officers for the final weeks of the school year, which could be more violent than usual because the school year is ending a week later. "We're gearing up, and we don't really know," he said. "It could very well be in the 80s and 90s, and these kids are probably anxious to get out."
-Police are working to replicate efforts to Tk Morse Avenue elsewhere. "Morse Avenue is a poster child for what could happen," Waldera said.
-Police are continuing to investigate the criminal sexual assault that took place at a Devon Avenue bus stop earlier this year, Waldera said. But so far, he said no pattern has emerged that would connect this incident to past assaults.
-The 24th District has a tag team of officers investigating two reports of child luring in the neighborhood this week.
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