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Uptown Residents Use Positive Loitering to Take Back Streets

Residents in the city’s North Side neighborhood of Uptown have launched a new campaign designed to counter panhandlers, street crime and prostitution. They call it Positive Loitering.

Positive Loitering is designed to eradicate pubic occurrences of what they call “negative loitering” in the gentrifying Chicago neighborhood.

Postive Loitering organizer Richard Thale speaks to residents in Uptown

The Uptown Chicago Commission sponsors the program along with Chicago police officers under CAPS. Their mission, residents say, is to restore order to Uptown, at least for one night a week, on Fridays.

Residents meet from 7 to 8 p.m. in designated areas usually high in crime or loitering.  Beat officers from the 19th district are sometimes present and encourage participation from neighbors.

The location and time of Positive Loitering meetings are posted weekly on the website Uptown Update, which promotes different events and programs that occur within the Uptown neighborhood.

“We do dig up our own stories, but we also act as a bulletin board for the community,” An Uptown Update representative said in an email.

“Quite a few readers asked us if Positive Loitering was going to happen again, so there is some community interest in it, definitely.”

Richard Thale has been the program’s organizer for six years.

Thale lives on the 4700 block of Kenmore Avenue and has lived in the Uptown neighborhood for more than 16 years. He attends the meetings every Friday with hopes of a great turnout.

“We try to say hello to people and make them feel welcome,” Thale said. “Positive Loitering just sends a message that the community belongs to the residents that live here.”

Many businesses in Uptown encourage and support the Positive Loitering meetings being held outside their businesses.

“It’s good to introduce yourselves to the surrounding neighborhood businesses to let them know why you’re standing in front of their buildings,” Thale said. “Thai Uptown sometimes gives us free bottled cold water in warm weather, which is great.”

The attendance of residents who join Positive Loitering every week typically depends on the weather and if there was an incident that recently occurred in the community; if an incident occurred earlier in the week, there is usually a larger turnout.

Tonia Lorenz, a resident of the 4600 block of Winthrop, said Positive Loitering is a program that is much needed.

“Positive Loitering is just the feeling of if bad guys can take over a corner by standing, then so can good guys,” Lorenz said.

Court advocacy is another CAPS program that Thale encourages the Uptown Positive Loitering residents to be a part of. The program consists of volunteers and there are training sessions held in the 19th district near the police station on Addison and Halsted, Thale said.

“The program focuses on repeat offenders of the neighborhood and allows residents to be present in the courtroom,” he said.

“It just basically sends a subtle message to the judicial system that this is a case that people from the community are concerned about.”

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