'Drug den' near Blue Line train cleaned up

Hundreds of hypodermic needles found and removed

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Over 400 hypodermic needles and dozens of bags of trash were removed from the land just south of the Harlem Blue Line train stop in a clean-up effort coordinated by the village of Forest Park and paid for by the county, which owns that parcel of land.

The area is between the U-Haul location on the north side of Harrison Street and the Blue Line entrance on Harlem Avenue, land heavily overgrown with small trees and shrubs prior to cleaning up the area. It's visible to people walking south on Harlem Avenue from the Blue Line stop.

Village Administrator Tim Gillian said at an Oct. 13 village council meeting that the ownership of the land, which had become a "drug den," was in question, but once it was determined that the county owns the property, Commissioner Brandon Johnson's office was quick to work with the village to clean up the area, and to pay for the work.

A team of hazmat workers came out on Oct. 13 to clean up the needles and trash, and on Oct. 14 county workers were on site cutting down trees and brush.

A fence and gate will be added in the future to prevent easy access.

According to Gillian, the area had become a place where homeless people slept and lived, a concern once drug usage became prominent.

About a year ago, Public Works Director John Doss and Police Chief Tom Aftanas, along with police officers and public works employees, joined forces to clean the area up. But this time, with the hypodermic needles numbering in the hundreds, the village deemed it necessary to hire an outside team to do the work.

"We've gotten a lot of complaints over the last year or so from residents walking to the train who've been forced to witness various goings on, so my hat's off to the county for stepping up and helping us with what is a significant quality of life issue here in town," Gillian said.

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