An open letter to my fellow residents of Forest Park:
About 13 years ago, my wife and I bought a house on the southern end (forgotten side) of Forest Park, south of Roosevelt Road. Speaking generally for the growth of Forest Park over the past 10 years, things turned out to our investment benefit. We have a pretty hip main street, decent grade schools, well-maintained infrastructure, and some cool neighbors, amongst other things.
Of course there are things that can be improved, but I want to let everyone in on one situation that affects ALL residents, and can eventually drive people out, drive down property values, etc. We have a drug problem in our community, tied in with strong gang relations. I personally know it is a FACT because I have seen it develop in my neighborhood over the last three to four years.
If you read the FP Review, you’ll read about recent arrests, big dollar drug /weapons busts and the creation of the multi-community task force WEDGE, which is encouraging. Even with WEDGE in effect and police patrolling regularly, this cancerous issue will grow if everyday residents take the passive attitude of “can’t see it from my house, so everything is fine.”
The first eight years for us living in FP was really nice. It felt like the community was growing, people reached out to get to know each other, kept informed on the neighborhood happenings, kept an eye out for suspicious activity and made neighbors aware. In the last three to four years, things have changed.
The new landlord in the apartment building across the street from me shows up for rent checks occasionally, keeps the building filled. Can’t see it from his house, and probably doesn’t care, as long as the rent is paid. I do wonder as to the extent landlords like this actually screen their tenants, check on them, log in the car plates, etc. I wish some of them would take more time screening potential tenants because this past year was very unpleasant for me, as I saw it from my house.
There was clearly a drug dealer living in the building. The sheer amount of average daily visits coming to his place was mind blowing. Here’s what I lived with for the last two years. For the record, I wasn’t “in the building” across the street, but I can probably draw the conclusion to what is going on when complete strangers (mostly male 18 to 35 years old) slowly wander the neighborhood in broad daylight, on the cell phone, and just pop in for a 30 second visit to said apartment building, several times a week. Then there were the handoffs to passing cars, or the dozens of cars that would be “new to the area” parking in front of my house, or the question of not knowing WHO was actually a tenant and who was not. The worst was when my babysitter was sitting outside with the kids, and there was a deal five feet away from her, in front of my house!! Just like that. Needless to say, my wife and I grew livid and made contact with police as to the happenings.
Forest park residents – please report suspicious activity – that’s what the police are there for. That is, unless you can’t see it from your house…then everything is just fine.
I know that the problem just isn’t one dude selling. It is a community problem, maybe bigger. At this point, I’m angry and concerned. A good neighbor of mine, who has a similar situation going on the next block over talks to me, asks what I see. Then it seems that the same people living near him, as well as others around our “hood” and around greater Forest Park have this intertwined network, and it bleeds into Maywood, Berwyn and into the city. So I have had some lengthy conversations with local police, and they are aware, vigilant, however they can’t be everywhere!! They need our help!
My wife and I put our house up for sale last summer. We don’t want to sell, but things MUST get better if we are to stay. Since then, the dealer across the street was either evicted or booted, but that in no way solved the problem for us. This is a community thing, and I ask my fellow residents to please keep a watchful eye. Although for now the problem is not right in front of my face like the last two years, I know it is surely happening elsewhere in my neighborhood. For the record, I do like my neighborhood, and would like to stay and see it grow. I want to live in the neighborhood, not the hood.
Even if you “don’t see it from your house,” you CAN help. Just be watchful. You know who the people in your surrounding blocks are! Take a walk! Say ‘Hi!’ Get to know the people around you, and if you sense something strange, people, cars, etc., call the police. that’s why we pay them and that is why they are there.
A cool, concerned Forest Park resident with a very cool house