There is a strange phenomenon in Forest Park that’s been going on for as long as we’ve lived here. At the same time that Forest Park has become an increasingly upscale community, there has been an even greater increase in antisocial behavior. With the warm weather upon us, this thug activity continues to rise.

The disruptive behavior we endure is initiated by residents who are disconnected from Forest Park and its values. They include punks congregating on corners, gang-banger wannabes walking down the middle of the street and inconsiderate adults screaming about lost car keys in the middle of the night.

Some of these people are labeled simply as “apartment dwellers.” It’s true that Forest Park has a large percentage of rental properties and we have many absentee landlords. We can’t force landlords to live in their rental units but the village could at least enforce building codes. It seems that several rental properties are overcrowded and falling into disrepair.

It’s unfair, though, to blame renters for all of our social problems. No one can ascribe antisocial behavior to a particular race, either. I myself contribute to the disruptive atmosphere in my neighborhood when my beagle starts howling at night.

We acknowledge that we have a growing problem with inconsiderate residents, but what are we going to do about it? Apart from cracking down on neglectful landlords, we have to break up the gangs that hang out on our streets. This kind of congregating is not permitted in Oak Park or River Forest, why should we put up with it?

As private citizens, we can’t allow ourselves to be intimidated by punks. We cannot allow their obnoxious behavior to go unreported. And we can be better neighbors ourselves by keeping our property up and the noise down.

What kind of neighbors do you want in Forest Park? I prefer neighbors who return their shopping carts to the store, don’t litter, and refrain from ranting late into the night. Ideally, I would have neighbors who help each other out with the mowing and the shoveling, who bring meals to those who are ill, and who let me borrow their tools. It just so happens that I’m blessed with neighbors like these.

We need the disruptive element to connect with Forest Park and its core values. We can’t have the police and village officials do all the dirty work, but they certainly can play a role. It’s also up to the rest of us to not ignore these lost souls, but to gently remind them that we’re all living on top of one another in Forest Park and their obnoxious behavior brings down the whole community.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.