A police scanner is the soundtrack to Timmy
Its crackling hiss has dictated the past four years of his
life. Muttered police codes startle him from slumber. Shootings and
break-ins send him dashing to his computer, where he records police
activity in real-time on his own personal neighborhood crime
Why does Granzow, a Chicago teen with autism, spend his
days deciphering a litany of life's sorrows from an endless stream
of static? You might say he feels like it's his civic
"We have to be the eyes and ears," Granzow
Granzow grew up in the Avondale neighborhood on Chicago's
northwest side where he lives with his mother, Lisa Walker, and his
sister, Melissa. He is the founder of the Avondale and Logan Square
Crime Blotter, a website that documents the police activity he
hears on his scanner.
His blogging schedule is rigorous. He wakes up around 8 or
9 a.m., then blogs nonstop until 7 p.m. After a quick dinner break,
he returns to his scanner and updates the site until
Granzow has his own blogging style, combining personal
anecdotes and musings into time-marked notes detailing shootings,
assaults, break-ins and gang activity.
"I've been pretty scared at times... But you know, I live
in the area. I can't let gangbangers stop me from living my life,"
Granzow's blog has gained him many supporters throughout
his community. But not all of the feedback is positive. His mixture
of first-person commentary, in which he often shares tales of
family hardships and his struggle in school, rubs some the wrong
"I've also gotten a lot of hate comments... `Leave it up
to the police to fix the crime issue.' And I'm like no, because
we're residents here. We have to do something, too," Granzow
Granzow was diagnosed with autism when he was 2. Asked if
that plays a role in his extreme focus on the police scanner, he
His mother and sister say his symptoms have improved with
time and are characterized by social and communication deficits,
along with occasional temper flare-ups. He has trouble adapting to
change. He subsisted on baby food until he was 8 or 9 because he
found chewing difficult. Granzow also suffered hearing loss in his
left ear, and one foot is shorter than the other-a physical trait
that hinders his ability to stand for long times.
"Basically, it's been a challenge. But I've found my way
past it," he says. "It's a learning process for me. I'm learning
each and every day how to live like a normal person. It's always
going to be hard for me, but I think I have support and a lot of
people who do care about me."
The past year has been eventful for Granzow.
Last summer he sponsored a widely publicized anti-violence
rally in his neighborhood in response to three shootings that
occurred a block or two north of his home.
He also successfully completed high school and last fall
began attending college at Wilbur Wright College. He also
celebrated the blog's fourth anniversary Nov. 23.
After he completes his associate's degree, Granzow hopes
to work for Chicago's criminal justice system as a police
dispatcher or community organizer.
Granzow's family expects his blog to play a large part in
his life's purpose.
"He's just so into it. It's obviously his passion," says
his sister, Melissa. His sustained effort stems from concern over
the crime in the neighborhood, she says, and with his blog, "He has
some power to help it."
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