• Mick Dumke
  • Residents and business owners say the visible presence of police has helped revitalize Bryn Mawr Avenue

This is the second of two parts. You can read the first one here.

Experts caution that what’s true about policing one neighborhood in one city isn’t necessarily true for another. And one incident hardly makes for a trend.

But at the very least, the October 8 robbery of the Bryn Mawr Jewelry Company shows why so many people think that police visibility impacts public safety—and certainly the perception of it.

Twenty-five years ago east Edgewater was a different place than it is now. After years of disinvestment, commercial districts were “saturated with businesses such as auto body shops, warehouses and pawn-shops,” Crain’s wrote in 1990. Prostitution, drug dealing, and holdups were common. The residential corridors on Winthrop and Kenmore were pockmarked with vacant lots, and poorly managed apartment buildings were set on fire so often that the area was nicknamed “Arson Alley.”

The 20th police district, which includes most of Edgewater and Ravenswood, had 16 murders, 849 robberies, and 48 arsons in 1991. By comparison, in 2011 there were five murders, 171 robberies, and six arsons.