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Neighbors feel safer in ‘Cop Land’

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

What might Mount Greenwood, Edison Park or Garfield Ridge — or any other neighborhood packed with people who get paychecks from the city — look like if Chicago workers weren’t required to live in town?

“It would change everything,’’ Beverly resident and Tranquility Hair Salon owner Megan Kenny said. “There’s comfort in knowing your neighbors and that they work for the city. It’s one of the great things about living around here.

“And,’’ she added, “if [city workers] didn’t live here. it would probably change a lot of people’s mind about living here.”

In Chicago ZIP codes home to the highest percentage of city workers, most folks said they find comfort knowing the lady who lives next door is a police officer and the fellow down the block is a firefighter.

“In areas where city workers do live, I feel safer. A lot safer,” said Sandy Swarycz, who lives in Garfield Ridge with her husband, a city snow removal crew member at Midway Airport. “City workers take care of their properties very well. And over by 64th Street off Harlem there are beautiful new homes and a lot of those were built by city workers.”

Many people call Swarycz’s part of town “Cop Land.” In 2005, the last time Chicago released the ZIP codes of city workers, about 1,300 police officers and 430 fire department employees lived there.

Only neighborhoods farther south — parts of Mount Greenwood, Beverly and Morgan Park in the 60655 ZIP code — have more city workers.

Firefighter John Leyden says living in the city is part of his job, and that’s just fine.

“It’s the requirement. You know that going in. And I think people who aren’t city workers like having us here, too. They know that when some people are fleeing the city, they’re neighbors aren’t moving out,” he said. “I think they like that and they stay, too. I know there’s a problem with city schools, but that keeps the Catholic schools going, I guess.”

Longtime Beverly resident Bob Hunt said eliminating the residency rule just doesn’t make sense.

“It would be a catastrophe,” Hunt, 60 said. “If you’re taking the city’s money you should live there. Why would you take money from the taxpayers and not live here? If you’re a policeman in Winnetka, OK, so you can’t afford to live there. But if you’re a policeman in Chicago, you should be a Chicagoan.”

Bring up the question of city residency laws to passersby in Norwood Park, Forest Glen, Edison Park, North Park and parts of Jefferson Park — home to a high percentage of police commanders and fire officials — and you’ll likely get the brush off.

But Bill Patsilivas, who works at his daughter’s shop, Favor the Moment, on Northwest Highway, says city employees, many of whom are long-time customers, should be allowed to live wherever they want.

“Why not? People should be able to travel around as long as they get to work on time,” Patsilivas said. “The city needs them as much as they need the city.”

And Vito Dalmazio, owner of Tony’s Italian Deli down the street, says city worker families have been some of his best customers for 30 years. He’s not worried that lifting the residency requirement might have a negative impact on his business.

“Whaddya gonna do? If it’s good for them, it’s OK,” Dalmazio said. “I know their kids and their kids’ kids. I’ll be fine either way.”

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