Expectations not met at Wicker Park Advisory Council's Solutions Meeting


Tim Kolecke, WPAC President and Juan "Dan" Puente, Wicker Park Supervisor

Expectations for the Wicker Park Advisory Council's (WPAC) Special Solutions part of their March Meeting were not met.

The meeting was held Tuesday night, Mar. 12, in the Wicker Park Field House. It focused on illegal activities and security issues in the Park.  

During the first hour of the meeting chaired by the WPAC President Tim Kolecke, the activities, interests and intentions of the WPAC were stated interspersed with other statements and comments from residents. Statements from three pre-registered people (Teddy Varndell, President of the Wicker Park Committee (WPC); Jim Drew, former WPC President; and Steve Jensen, Bucktown Community Organization (BCO) President who provided a written statement) were given.  A few other people commented as well. Little to no real solutions were presented.  


Alderman Moreno

Following the WPAC February meeting, at which a 14 to 1 vote to remove four chess tables, there was a planning meeting of WPAC members, Park District personnel and 1st Ward Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno.

Addressing Chicago Park District's Code of Conduct, the planning meeting topics included drug dealing, alcohol consumption, dogs running off leash, graffiti and vandalism. In addition, the group talked about other challenges: the Crusty Punks (a.k.a. Rail Riders or selectively homeless), after bar hours partying, Park Security, the two security cameras and the process required to get the cameras used in law enforcement.

According to Park District personnel, their newly appointed Director of Park Services, Safety and Security for the Chicago Park District, Tom Byrne, was already arranging to have off-duty and retired law enforcement officers (Park Security) monitor the security cameras which are tied into the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OMEC) network. 


Doug Wood, Tim Kolecke and Scott Venable at the Friends of the Park's Security Summit

Since the two cameras were installed in 2011 and 2012 at the expense of $50,000 (half from Moreno's menu money and half from park district), there has been no process set-up for viewing the tapes after an incident has occurred. Thus, no offenders have been identified. 

Wicker Park's Security Officer is integrating into the Park and is getting good results. However, her schedule (weekdays from 4:30-8:30) does not cover the times when the majority of the illegal behavior occurs (all weekends and overnight).

For the last 5 years, the WPAC has asked for security guards to be added to the park’s budget to cover weekends.


Officer Hampton, Tom Byrne and Lieutenant Harmon at Security Summit

Those who attended the planning meeting understood that the March WPAC meeting would include:

  • The Park District Designers would suggest furnishing and multiple layouts of those furnishing for community input.  The design would show a change in the southwest corner by eliminating the large group of tables that currently are located there. In addition, the WPAC expected designs that created socializing places in various locations in the park that were consistent with the historic status of the park and that would be welcoming to all patrons.
  • Park District staff would have an idea how much Park District funding would be available to add security during other hours of the day, on weekends, and overnight on weekends
  • Tom Byrne's Park Security team would communicate with 14th District Commander Frank Valadez and present the process to follow for accessing data from OEMC videotape. This would include the details of how to report an incident and then how to follow a step-by-step process that leads to identifying and apprehending the offenders. 

Maria Stone, Friends of the Park

Hope for this was intensified at the Friends of the Park's Advisory Council Security Summit Sat., Mar. 9, when Byrne and two Chicago Police representatives did not appear to know what the Park District's Code of Conduct was but they indicated that they were going to established what was possible through OEMC and have a plan that could be used for many parks. That was to have gone to Maria Stone, Director, Neighborhood Parks and Community Relations at Friends of the Parks, by Mon., Mar.11. There is still no report. 

At the WPAC's Tuesday meeting, the deliverables were not delivered.

What is next?
As has been pointed out before regarding safety everywhere, one must be aware and involved. 

Kolecke said that the solutions for Wicker Park require more cooperation (park district, district police and park security) and community involvement. 


Francis Valadez, Police Commander, 14th District, spoke at the meeting about importance of filing crime reports

The problems are not someone else's problems. As Stone said, "The solution is for all groups to work together to create the solution. Those who view illegal behaviors and do nothing are enabling illegal behaviors. They are responsible for the illegal acts committed by those that they ignored."

Since WPAC's Tuesday meeting, Doug Wood, Wicker Park Advisory Council Secretary and Enhanced Security Committee Chair, has created a "To Do List." 

1.    Set the Procedure for obtaining footage from the two Wicker Park Security cameras for the Park Security Staff and the 14th Police to view. (Thomas Byrne, Director Park Security)

2.    Set the Procedure for reporting incidents and vandalism to the Park District Security and 14th District Police. (Park Security and 14th District Police)            

3.    Obtain a defined timetable of daily security coverage in the park that includes both Park Security and 14th District Police coverage.  (Park Security and 14th District Police

4.    Identify Funding Sources to support enhanced security provided by Park Security Officers in the park: 1-9pm Monday – Thursday; 1pm – 11pm Friday – Sunday; 11pm – 6am Thursday-Sunday. Current funding covers M-F from 4:30-8:30pm. (Park District, Alderman Moreno)

5.    Obtain a 501c3 fiscal agent to manage the funds solicited for enhanced security.  This will give donors a tax incentive.(Doug Wood – WPAC will research options with Parks Foundation and Friends of the Park)


Robert Rejman, Chicago Park District Planning, Construction and Facility Management, gave the WPAC an aerial map of the Park and photos of some furnishing

6.     Develop a site plan for the park with hardscape that is appropriate for the landmark status of the park that doesn’t create groupings of hardscape that invites illegal activities due to poor placement.  The plan is to be welcoming to all park patrons and will allow them to enjoy the park. (Doug Wood – WPAC will create design with Historic Park Design Staff and report to Robert Rejman)

7.     Installation of Safe Zone Signs in Parkways on Damen, Schiller, Wicker Park Ave.  (Alderman Moreno) 

8.    Procedure for upholding the Park District Code of Conduct’s protocol to eliminate repeat offenders from the park.             

9.    Procedures are outlined in the document but details of implementation should be defined so the policy can be enforced in 2013. (Park District Legal and Risk Management Departments)



Table Removal

Please remove the tables. They do not provide a welcoming entrance to our lovly park. Perhaps an overhead gateway that you walk through, like on the east side of the Lincoln Park Zoo or at Northwestern University. Something that says Wicker Park, so it serves as a sign as well. Replacement for the tables - I say nothing - maybe some planting that buffer the trees and control access to the grass - or widen the sidewalk a bit to allow the farmer's market to expand southward???

So Author, Will the drug

So Author, Will the drug dealers' tables finally be removed?? AUTHOR'S NOTE: As per the vote, planning meeting and subsequent statements, the 4 tables that are currently in place will be removed. However, as per #6 in the above story, there is to be a site plan created which will include what furnishings will be selected to go where. As has been stated before, the intent is to maintain areas for people to play cards and games.

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