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Chicago community leaders, residents, and the NAACP president gathered to discuss crime prevention solutions. They hope to deter shootings like the recent fatal robbery and carjacking in Oak Park. The group wants justice for 18-year-old Jailyn Logan Bledsoe and to do whatever possible to protect the neighborhood. Moreover, they know that for any crime reduction plan to be successful, all business owners must be on board.
The meeting occurred three days after police responded to a caller’s report of gunshots fired in the area. When the officers arrived at the BP gas station, Bledsoe was unresponsive. A witness reportedly told the police that two men stole the victim’s car after shooting and robbing her.
Naturally, people were upset about this crime. Chicagoans have lost their patience with police inactivity, so they took it upon themselves to discuss crime reduction needs with the gas station’s owner. Since he was not there, the crowd peppered the manager with questions, often interrupting his responses. While the verbal altercation was tense, it was productive.
One of the men declared that BP should use crime prevention precautions at the pumps after he pointed out the station’s store has bulletproof glass and cameras.
“My employee [was] robbed about seven months [ago]. One of them got headbutted and had [to get] stitches. One of them had a gun pointed right at their face. We got robbed, and I didn’t see support from the community,” the manager responded defensively.
Some of the crowd audibly responded to this absurd example. Unfortunately, they failed to see the correlation between his employee’s headbutt and Bledsoe’s murder.
Once again, when the gas station manager tried to respond, another woman injected her point of view:
“Companies [that] don’t want to put in the right type of cameras…should close at night. It should be equitable. Everybody needs them. Look at the lack of cameras around here.”
After several minutes of unproductive finger-pointing, a woman held up a smartphone so “President Camille” could speak to the manager. She explained that crime prevention measures were the reason everyone descended on the BP gas station:
“You just explained what happened to your worker who was robbed at gunpoint; that is not safe. But we have to have petroleum. We have to have to bring [business] owners and the community to the table so that we can figure this out. This is not the first time this has happened: It’s ongoing.”
“So, don’t be defensive, because that’s not what this is,” she continued. “You cannot solve this problem by yourself. That’s not why we are here talking to you. The NAACP and all the leaders in the communities, the alderman, [and] the president of the village [are here] so you understand — we’re here to get this done together.”
Next, Alderman Emma Mitts (Ward 37) countered the manager’s repeated statements doubting the use of security guards and cameras. “I am an alderman in the city of Chicago. I also chair the Committee on License and Consumer Protection. That deals with all business. You can’t tell me that there’s nothing that you could do to make [the gas station] safer.”
Then, the alderman asked if he was willing to look into enhancing the safety around the fuel pumps, like cameras and signage about the surveillance system. Before allowing the station manager time to respond, Mitts added another question: “Why not have a person out here to make sure your customers are safe? What’s wrong with having a guard?”
“I’ve thought about it for a long time,” the manager replied. “Community members say [crimes] happen at night or in the early morning hours and you would like us to shut down at night, right? So, I’m with the community. Shut us down. [But] there are eight gas stations in Oak Park that are open 24/7, [and] what happened here could happen at any of the stations.”
Several individuals indicated they did not want all of the stations to close at night. The manager countered their disagreement: “But that is exactly what you are asking. Shut down the stores at night at whatever time is proper for every 24/7.”
That is not what the community members wanted. Instead, the Oak Park BP station was the lone business for which they demanded night-time closure.
Frustrated with the cross-talk and the manager’s opposition, Oak Park President Scaman announced: “I’m here to listen. And we will sit down and talk as one community here to keep all of us safe.”
The crowd erupted with several individuals trying to make their point at once. One man’s voice stood out above the din. He said: “We need to talk to the owner. We want to exchange numbers and communicate. We want to be safe.”
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
TNS Video: June 25, 2022
Chicago Tribune: 18-year-old fatally shot in gas station robbery and carjacking was Oak Park-River Forest High School grad, recalled as ‘powerful, brilliant young woman;’ by Dia Gill
Wednesday Journal: UPDATED: Oak Park woman fatally shot was OPRF student and activist; by Stacey Sheridan
Interview: Jocilyn Floyd; June 25, 2022; phone
Featured, Top, and Inset Video Screenshots Courtesy of TNS Media – Used With Permission
Fifth Inset Image by Colin Russell Courtesy of PublicDomainPictures – Public Domain License