Think about a neighborhood watch program and you’re likely to conjure images of crime prevention.
That’s not what two Oak Lawn officials have in mind for a neighborhood surrounding Christ Medical Center.
“It’s more than just crime. It’s community awareness,” said Trustee Terry Vorderer, who partnered with Trustee Alex Olejniczak to kick off the program.
“This is a pilot program, said Vorderer, who along with Olejniczak, will hold a kickoff meeting for residents at 7:30 p.m. March 20 at the Oak Lawn Park District administrative building, 9400 S. Kenton Ave.
“We’re very excited about it,” Olejniczak said, adding that program is designed to bring about synergies in the community.
The two trustees hope to eventually expand the program throughout their districts and ultimately village wide, they said.
Rather than focus solely on criminal activities, the watch program will concentrate on increasing communication between neighbors and keeping an eye on elderly residents, especially those who live alone, said Olezniczak, the village board’s fire department liaison.
The program would involve block reps—ideally two on each block—who communicate with Vorderer and Olejniczak and talk to residents about various village programs or initiatives, Olejniczak said.
Vorderer, a retired Oak Lawn police officer, said the village has not experienced an increase in serious crimes, although rashes of other crimes, such as car or home burglaries, have occurred recently. However, “people’s perception is reality,” he said. Hopefully, the program will be able to change perceptions that crime is on the rise, he said.
Vorderer, the village board’s police department liaison, said he sent letters to about 40 residents in his district, inviting them to participate in the program.
“Anyone is welcome to show up” at the meeting, he said.
The area chosen for the pilot program was selected because it includes the hospital, businesses on 95th Street and Cicero Avenue as well as single- and multi-family residences and the mobile home park.