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Elgin police shining some light on southwest-side neighborhood

With rising crime whElgpolice officials describe as 'quality life issues' Meyer Street Mulberry Drive neighborhoods near LarkHigh School have been

With rising crime and what Elgin police officials describe as "quality of life issues," the Meyer Street and Mulberry Drive neighborhoods near Larkin High School have been targeted for special police attention this spring, beginning with a "walk and talk" on Saturday, February 15. | Dave Gathman ~ Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 18, 2014 6:13AM

ELGIN — Police say they are focusing a special effort this spring on the Meyer Street and Mulberry Court area, a southwest-side neighborhood of mostly apartment buildings between Larkin High School and Route 20. And that includes literally shining some light on the area.

“We noticed last year that there were several quality-of-life issues in that area, from grocery carts being left all over the place to graffiti to some more serious incidents,” Elgin police Cmdr. Glenn Theriault said.

He said that unlike many neighborhoods, the area does not have a ROPE (Resident Officer Program in Elgin) officer living there. But Officer John Varga has volunteered to become a “non-resident ROPE officer” — not living there but spending most of his on-duty time in the neighborhood and mixing with its residents.

Partly to let Varga get to know the residents better, the department scheduled a “walk and talk” through Meyer Street and Mulberry Court to begin at noon Saturday.

Walk-and-talks — which usually take place in the summer — give residents in a given section of the city a chance to meet police officers and other city officials, and to let them know about special problems in the neighborhood.

Theriault said another goal of the rare winter walk-and-talk was to pass out light bulbs to anyone who doe not have one for their front porch light, and to encourage everyone to keep those lights switched on.

“We noticed that this is a particularly dark neighborhood at night,” Theriault said. “It’s hard to say how much keeping your front light on discourages crime. Burglars don’t check in with us and say, ‘I would have broken into that place but the light scared me away.’ But if nothing else, it gives residents a greater feeling of safety, which is also important.”

He said free light bulbs were donated to the project by Ziegler’s Ace Hardware, Home Depot and Target.

Reaching out especially to the Spanish-speaking population of that area, the police and other city departments also have opened an information kiosk just inside the entrance of the bustling, Hispanic-oriented Elgin Mall, which is just south of some of the Meyer Street apartments. Visitors to the kiosk can write out suggestions to city officials. They also can learn about local programs for the hungry, find out how “undocumented” immigrants can apply for temporary visitors’ driver’s licenses, and get information about Kane County’s home health programs, the Elgin Well Child Center, Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association, and other programs.

Meanwhile, Theriault said, the department is beginning to plan its regular 2014 summer walk-and-talks through a number of neighborhoods that are yet to be determined.

“Any resident wishing to contact us is encouraged to visit the Elgin Police Department Facebook page to offer ideas or feedback,” he said. “Additionally, residents can always call the Elgin Police Department at 847-289-2500 for nonemergency, police-related matters.”

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