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. They want 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. If [they] don’t want to put in the right type of security, then they all need to shut 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’ll 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.”
Speaking to Village of Oak Park President Vicki Scaman, the station manager suggested she “make an ordinance. You know we’ve never had any problem with the village. Make an ordinance that [orders all of the 24/7 stations to] shut down at this time and open them back up at this time.”
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. Finally, someone shouted: “You want equal treatment?”
Frustrated with the cross-talk and the manager’s opposition, Oak Park President Scaman announced: “I’m here to listen. And will we 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.”
Other community members weighed in through Twitter:
- Marlvin S. Summerlin III tweeted: “Darn, prayers for her family, so sad.” Then referring to Oak Park’s crime problem he added, “That’s why I left last August.”
- Jose L. added to the Twitter conversation: “So sad. I stay…blocks away. [T]he only thing I always say to family members & close friends [is] try to avoid the streets from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.”
- Trina Lane’s tweet expressed her anger and frustration: “This is ridiculous! I’m so tired of the killing! The Chicago Police say they have a handle on crime, but they don’t! You can’t go to the gas station, ride the train, [or] go downtown. Just walking in Chicago is dangerous! We need help!” She offered prayers for Bledsoe’s family.
Just heartbreaking. #jailynbledsoe was a recent high school graduate. This happened a block away from where we live. This @bp_America gas station has had several incidents over the years like this. https://t.co/fHRXFfpW1V
— Raymond Chang (@tweetraychang) June 25, 2022
During a phone conversation with the Chicago Leader Jocilyn Floyd, a Senior Management Consultant at The Human Capital Experts in Chicago mentioned that she was not at the meeting on Saturday morning. She agrees that crime reduction will happen when businesses and community leaders make changes. However, Floyd added, residents and police must also be on board for meaningful changes to take place.
Would Highly Visible Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) Be a Strong Deterrent Against Crime?
Community leaders, like Oak Park’s, believe that cameras would be an effective deterrent against illegal activity. Even if strategically placing CCTV systems in businesses and gas stations does not stop criminals, the recordings will aid police investigations.
Perhaps, if the BP station at 100 Chicago Avenue had cameras above its pumps, Chicago Police might have already identified the men who ended Blodsoe’s life and stole her car.
In a 2021 study, researchers from the University of Tennessee sought to answer the question, “Is there empirical evidence that surveillance cameras reduce crime?” They reviewed papers, articles, and reports to reach the conclusion that CCTV security systems are most effective when combined with other crime reduction or deterrence methods: Upgraded lighting, security guards, and secure space like a parking garage.
Their results explain that experts consistently report that “efforts to reduce or deter crime are complex — as are the causes of crime — and that pointing to one method of reducing crime is an erroneous path.”
Finally, the researcher noted that while there are social costs to increased CCTV, most study area participants reportedly said they felt safer with cameras installed.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
TNS Video: June 25, 2022
Municipal Technical Advisory Service: Is There Empirical Evidence That Surveillance Cameras Reduce Crime? By Frances Adams-O’Brien
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