An old policy disagreement between Mayor Sandra Bury’s administration and Independent Trustee Robert Streit may strong arm its way into the discussion after a recent arrest of three people accused of three strong armed robberies in three successive days. The policy disagreement has not involved the policing of the village but rather over the lack of transparency regarding police reports and the public’s right to know about crimes occurring in Oak Lawn.
In November, Bury debated Streit on the public’s right to know about increases in crime. In the end, the Mayor agreed that most police reports, with the exception of rapes, domestic violence crimes, and accidents would be made public. It appears, however, that a recent arrest of the three armed robbers has made it clear that other reports are being withheld from Village Trustees despite Bury’s promise to the contrary. None of the reports were provided to Streit and no Everbridge Alert could be found that warned residents of this organized criminal activity by the three perpetrators.
In late April, Oak Lawn’s Police department announced that it had charged two adults and one juvenile for what was termed as a “string of strong armed robberies” occurring on April 18, 19 and 20. The report of the arrests of the juvenile, along with Shaquan D. Lee and Bryant Smith left some residents and at least one Trustee shocked. Streit said that despite promises to the contrary that he would receive such reports, he never received the police reports regarding the strong armed robberies.
Shaquan D. Lee, 21, who lives in Justice, was charged with two felony counts of robbery. Bryant Smith,19, of Joliet, was also charged with felony counts of robbery.
The three robberies occurred in different parts of Oak Lawn but the Police are convinced that the two men and the juvenile committed all three crimes. The first robbery occurred near 103rd and Central on April 18th. The second robbery occurred on the 19th at Centennial Park at 9400 S. Nashville. The final robbery, which led to the arrests occurred on April 20th at Mooyah Burgers at 6256 W. 95th Street.
Officers responded to the call on the 20th and were told that a male black offender had taken a cell phone from a victim. A description of the alleged offenders’ vehicle allowed a Hickory Hills officer to determine that a similar vehicle with an offender matching the description, was in Hickory Hills. In addition to the offender who took the phone, the other two alleged accomplices were in the vehicle. The victim positively identified the man who took the phone in what police officers call a “stop for show up”.
Streit congratulated the police work that resulted in the arrests. However, he said that the failure of the Bury administration to send out an Everbridge alert or even send police reports about the incidents was ridiculous. “The lack of transparency on a matter of protecting our residents from this outside criminal element defies logic once again”, said Streit.
In November, Streit directly challenged Bury to release all of the police reports several times stating, “I know you don’t want the public to know.” He said that Bury doesn’t want to be held accountable for her record as Mayor but she defended her record stating “I’m so proud of my record and the record of this board.”
Streit again told the Mayor that “the public has a right to know and I know you don’t think they have a right to know.” Streit said that even though the Mayor doesn’t think the public should have access to police reports, he believes that the reports are public records and that the public believes they have a right to the information.
Streit said that it was also important that the residents are aware of any increase in crime. “If we have a group of men committing strong armed robberies, the public has a right to know in order to protect themselves from these criminals,” said Streit.