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Wicker Park Advisory Council takes action to end 10-year battle over drug dealers and drunks
After repeated efforts over 10 years to rid the Park of the drug dealing and drinking at Damen Ave. and Schiller St., the Wicker Park Advisory Council voted to have four chess tables removed as soon as possible. These tables have become the center for illegal activities.
The decision came because of the experiences of area residents, those who come into the Park from outside the neighborhood as well as Council members.
One parent says, "I avoid that entrance of the park because I see the fights, drug sales, open drinking of alcohol. I experience lewd comments made towards me from the patrons at those tables. I do not want my children around that."
A long time resident from around the Park says, "It is like running the gauntlet to get into the Park. At all hours of the day and evening, there is lewd, crude language and often traffic jams. 'Customers' double park, causing traffic to back up as they go to make their drug buy.
"The Park's wrought iron fence has been vandalized. They bent the rails to mark the place to buy. Party coolers are used to cool their alcohol and store their drug stashes, though sometimes they use the trash bins for the drugs. They have gotten more blatant over the last few years. The police come and get them to dump the liquor but when the police leave, they go across the street and buy more."
"We have had enough, get rid of those tables," says a 35-year resident who is on the Local School Council at Pritzker. The school is on the diagonal corner from the Park.
"Those tables appeared one day, no one asked for them. From the beginning, they harbored bad behavior that has only gotten worse," said a Park neighbor.
A 36-year resident who volunteers many hours in the Park weekly says, "The tables are no longer used for the original purpose and I am tired of picking up the trash around them."
During the Council's discussion, one member said, "I understand why people want to remove the tables, but that may only be a temporary fix. They will go elsewhere in the Park and then we will be removing other things."
Proco "Joe" Moreno, 1st Ward Alderman who lives in the neighborhood, believes that there should be a discussion about alternatives for the tables "so that our park continues to be a place of gathering and play for ALL, ALL residents of the 1st Ward and the City. " He hopes that the Park District can help in removing "the nefarious elements from the area."
"If Alderman Moreno gets any blow-back from those who used the tables for said illegal behavior, I would remind them that their behavior is what doomed their little party zone under the trees," said another community member.
With these three factors in place:
- recent changes in the handling of 911 calls, due to lack of police resources
- the fact that no one will be reviewing the tapes from the camera that the Alderman funded because the Chicago Police Department has high demands and not enough resources
- reductions in Park staffing locally and system-wide, due to budget cuts
it would appear that another discussion, after 10 years of discussions and other abatement attempts, would produce no different outcome, no solution.
When actions to eliminate the homeless from sleeping on the benches in the Polish Triangle at Division St., Ashland and Milwaukee Avenues did not work, Moreno had the benches removed.
Some residents feel that the problem of drug dealers and drunks in Wicker Park point to the same type of problem resolving as used for the Triangle's benches -- removal.
Photo courtesy of Doug Wood
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Crime Stats & CAPS Beats
- 12th Police District - CLICK
Not Available Larceny 0 Motor Veh Theft 0 Burglary 0 Robbery 0 Aggrav. Assault 0 Aggrav. Battery 0 Homicides 0 Criminal Sex Assault 0 Arson 0
- 14th Police District - CLICK
APR 4 -17: Larceny 24 Motor Veh Theft 10 Burglary 19 Robbery 7 Aggrav. Assault 2 Aggrav. Battery 3 Homicides 1 Criminal Sex Assault 0 Arson 3
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