The Medina family is worried about crime in Forest Park. A couple of weeks ago, someone entered their backyard and stole a bike via an unlocked garage service door in the 1000 block of Dunlop. They didn’t call police or report the crime. That changed when their son’s bicycle was stolen overnight on April 4 – also through the unlocked service door. On Saturday, April 7, they went to Costco and bought a new bike for their 9-year-old son. Later that afternoon, around 4 p.m., the new white Tony Hawk Costco bike was stolen from their front yard – right in front of them.
“My wife was gardening in the patio, outside and my son was 5 feet away,” said Rosalio Medina. “A group of five kids immediately came in the street and stole my son’s bike and ran away. I was shocked that that kind of criminal act could happen during the day. They actually stole the bike in front of somebody.”
The Medinas, who have three children, age 5-9, were shaken up, as were their neighbors. “We were so concerned and so afraid. We were planning to move. Those kids [who stole the bikes] were 13, 14 or 15 years old,” he said. “We are in a stable family neighborhood in Forest Park. We have lived here seven years. It’s getting bad. We wonder if something else is gonna happen or if somebody is going to be killed. We worry about our son being beaten up for his bike next time.” To make things worse, a neighbor was arrested the same week down the block for predatory sexual assault.
According to Det. Sgt. Mike Keating, three of the local juveniles (all age 14) who stole the bike were apprehended later that evening at the park. Reports say police identified a group of teenagers in the soccer field and one allegedly told them their friend had just run home. When police got to the boy’s home, relatives confirmed that he had been in possession of a white bicycle, and he brought police to a hiding place on Harlem Avenue where they recovered the bike. At the station, the group of detained teens allegedly told police they were walking home from Walmart on Dunlop and decided to take the bicycle. The teenager charged with taking it told police he was “peer pressured.” Police released him to a guardian.
“At the station, when they are released, we have a sit-down discussion with the parents.” Keating said. The juveniles will appear in juvenile court.
“Unfortunately, when it gets warm out, these things start to happen. Bike thefts are the flavor of the day. When bikes start to go, we know that summer’s coming. In this case, I’d classify it as a crime of opportunity. I don’t recognize any of the names as repeat offenders or anything.
“We’re a small town and you see lots of police cars, and there are cars you don’t see. We still have a good grip on things,” said Keating.
But Medina and his neighbors aren’t so sure. He described the police attitude as “relaxed,” when taking their report.
Medina says he’s also concerned about the high traffic on his section of Dunlop, considering the number of young families on the block. According to a village report submitted in January, a daily average of 900 cars travel on Dunlop between Roosevelt Road and Desplaines Avenue. Medina says a car lost control and hit his fence a couple of years ago. “My son was playing in the yard [at the time].”
He said he was thinking of installing surveillance cameras, which Keating thinks is a good idea. “We welcome anyone with cameras.” He said a neighbor’s surveillance cameras helped solve a burglary in the 1500 block of Circle Avenue last fall.
As for Medina, he wants to stay in Forest Park. He works at Oak Park Hospital and his wife is an administrator at a Chicago Montessori school. He says the neighbors are planning to meet to talk about what they can do. “We are a working-class neighborhood. We have excellent people on our block. We are very tight and have a lot of family members. We are maintaining our properties and they’re in good shape. We love it here. We all work so hard. We don’t want to give away our neighborhood.”
He’s also locking his garage side door.