Having nearly two dozen bullets directed at a two-flat on Circle Avenue on a late December night is frightening and disconcerting. There is no other way for a cohesive community like Forest Park to process it. If ever such reckless, criminal behavior becomes normalized, then our village loses control of its destiny.
First though, we must express gratitude that no people were injured in this assault. With bullets passing through windows and into walls of rental units while innocents watched TV, this could just as easily have moved from shocking to tragic.
Now, after fearful venting and information-sharing on social media, what’s the response of the community? What’s in our control and what’s not?
Our police department tells us the attack was not random, that the tenants on the building’s second floor appear to have been targeted. Motivation? Uncertain, though in our urban suburb it seems safe to assume there are gang-related aspects to this crime.
Mayor Anthony Calderone posted on Facebook that the building owner “took steps immediately to excuse the tenant on the second floor.” Certainly an odd choice of words “to excuse.” Evicted? Encouraged out? But those occupants moved off of Circle Avenue last weekend, outside of Forest Park we presume. That’s good.
Forest Park officials — its police and its administration — have recognized for many years that multifamily housing presents the most substantial challenges to safety and stability in town. That’s why the department has an officer focused on monitoring and building connections within apartment blocks.
This would be a good time for the village to assess how that program is working. How well does it connect to other vital village departments, including building inspections? What are the specific goals of the multifamily effort? Monitoring crowding of units? Are leases in place with actual tenants? Are there services that could be offered to landlords in vetting potential tenants in terms of criminal background checks, in addition to standard credit checks? Are the problems presented by large apartment buildings the same or different than the many two- and three-flats, usually without owner occupants, that line our streets?
Is there a way to strengthen Neighborhood Watch/community policing efforts in a way that adds engagement by neighbors rather than allowing apathy or acceptance to become the norm?
These are the micro-issues where local impact can be more real. But there are so many larger societal failures, which Forest Park alone can’t solve but that deserve our genuine focus as we work to build and sustain this precious community. Obviously, there are too many guns in the wrong hands. Without accelerating into a tortured debate of the very real Second Amendment, can we agree that America’s cities are swimming in handguns being recklessly used? Are there solutions and middle grounds where progress could be made? Absolutely.
We sit at the start of Christmas week. Forest Park has narrowly missed a human tragedy. Let’s seek shared ground. Let’s unite and not divide.