Conversations turn to recent crime in latest DeKalb City Council meeting: ‘Significant issue’ says mayor

The city plans to hold an upcoming town hall meeting in response to public comments made by a resident at Monday’s City Council meeting.

The planter boxes in front of DeKalb City Hall Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, on Lincoln Highway after the recent downtown renovations.

DeKALB – Recent crime in the city of DeKalb was a topic of conversation at a DeKalb City Council meeting this week, with DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes calling violent crime a “significant issue,” saying the city need to address it.

“They talk about it takes a village to raise a child, it’s going to take a village to address this particular situation,” Barnes said.

A DeKalb resident expressed concern about the recent uptick in crime during Monday’s DeKalb City Council meeting and said something has to give considering what she knows about the efforts made by the city and the police department.

“I’ve been very alarmed at the crime that we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks,” Jo Schulz said. “I know I’m not the only citizen who shares this concern. I think if you look at many of the sites on Facebook you’ll find that a lot of people are expressing concerns about the current state of the city of DeKalb regarding crime.”

Last month, a string of unrelated gun violence around the city’s north side left multiple injured, and an 18-year-old dead after shootings were reported within a span of three days. Police Chief David Byrd said at the time that violent crime was a “community issue” that can’t be resolved by just policing alone. He said police patrols in the area continue to be vigilant.

Schulz suggested the police chief and the mayor hold a town hall meeting to help ensure residents of the work being done within the police department and with the city’s former largest landlord, Hunter Properties. Several former Hunter-owned properties were sold to Chicago-based investor Clear Investment Group over the past year, a move which city officials said was needed to address resident safety and police calls at several locations.

“I think that the chief has also done some really, really wonderful work especially over the last couple of weeks,” Schulz said. “I know mayor that you’ve been strongly behind that from the get-go.”

Schulz said the purpose of the town hall would be simple: to make more people aware of the good work the city and the police department are doing.

“I see what people are trying to do,” Schulz said. “I appreciate it. I think you’ve done a lot of good things. I think the problem is that a lot people don’t realize you’ve done a lot of good things. If we could have a get-together, I think it would be a nice gesture to the concerned community.”

Barnes replied, saying a town hall is a good idea.

“Chief and I can talk about that and see what we can do besides even the crime issue just an overall state of the community, which would be great,” Barnes said.

Barnes recounted one incident in a string of recent shootings that transpired along Ridge Drive and said there was a culminating moment that drove home the issue for him.

“City Manager [Bill] Nicklas and I were on scene,” Barnes said. “There’s this little kid with his little backpack walking down the sidewalk, and he’s heading home to the building. This happened outside. When you think about that, that little kid coming home from school and this is the environment that he is growing up in. We can’t allow that. So, we have to figure out this once and for all.”

Barnes gave thanks to Schulz for bringing her concerns and suggestions to the City Council meeting.

“I took that to heart,” Barnes said. “We’re going to move forward with some sort of event like that.”

Barnes hopes to help the city curb the trajectory of its recent trend in crimes.

“Everyone that lives in the city of DeKalb deserves to be able to raise their family and come home at night to a safe environment, to a healthy environment,” Barnes said. “We are going to work intensely to the success of that going forward.”

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