A page one story in today’s Review reveals the incredible amount of time that our police spend looking for drug addicts at a gas station near the Eisenhower Expressway. For many readers the fact that this site has become a haven for dope fiends heading back to the far western suburbs after doing their shopping on Chicago’s West Side is no surprise. But, as we were, readers may be shocked to learn just how often an already taxed department is diverted from other responsibilities to tend to this transient population.
Living in a community devoid of illegal drugs is a utopia that village residents shouldn’t hold their breath for. Instead, they should continue doing as they have done and pick up the phone when they see a destructive force entering their neighborhoods. Readers may be surprised once again to learn that of the approximately 116 drug-related incidents police have responded to at Thornton’s since the start of 2007, more than 75 percent were initiated by a phone call to police headquarters.
By itself, that statistic could be interpreted to mean that police officers and community leaders aren’t putting enough effort into controlling the problem. That would be an incorrect reading of the numbers. Officers do respond to these calls and are making arrests with such frequency that it’s impossible to deny that effort. Further, the mayor brought his weight to bear several years ago and helped force the property owner to install additional security measures.
What we can take from this statistic is that the community wants to rid itself of the problem.
The mayor’s sentiment that it’s time for Forest Park to push this problem elsewhere is eagerly agreed to. But given that we are unhappy bearing the brunt of another community’s good police work, we’re a little uncomfortable simply pushing this issue further downstream. Ultimately, this problem needs to be pushed into rehab facilities, community outreach groups, job training programs and other real solutions that will help deliver drug addicts and drug dealers into a future that offers hope.
That, of course, is the long view and is not the sole responsibility of Forest Park or any other community. No man is an island and no community in the suburban Chicago area is so isolated that it can ignore its neighbors.
But until the time comes when society pulls together to address these enormous problems, it is time for a more visible police presence at Thornton’s.
Police Chief Jim Ryan said it’s much simpler to attack a single, fixed point than it would be to scour the neighborhoods for junkies. This is the alternative he suggested if police were more severe and made it “too impossible” for people to ingest their drugs at Thornton’s. This logic makes some sense, but the community’s demonstrated interest in squashing the presence of drugs here says that it’s worth a try.