Police crime scene tape seals the entrance to Wicker Park, which was the… (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune )
Needles have been found on the fence in Wicker Park. The homeless camp out there. The triangular-shaped park was the scene of a fatal shooting last week.
It’s all left residents asking for greater security at the park.
The problems at the park, said longtime resident Mike Payette, include public drunkenness, drug use and disorderly conduct by drifters he referred to as “rail riders or grungy punks.”
“They get in violent confrontations, pull out the bushes and the roses and throw them – it just goes on and on. It’s lawless,” said Payette, who voiced his frustration at Wednesday’s park district board meeting.
Resident Elaine Coorens said the neighborhood is working with the alderman and police commander to address the issues. “This group of rail riders has been worse than any group we’ve seen come through – whether you call them rail riders, crusty punks or selectively homeless,” she said.
Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st), who lives two blocks away from the park, said he requested more police patrols and more park security.
The park has a part-time security guard who works 20 hours a week Monday through Friday, Payette said. He asked the park board for a security guard to work on weekends.
Last year, Moreno allocated money to pay for additional security cameras that were installed. The park district committed to installing another camera that can be monitored from inside the fieldhouse by the first week of November, he said.
He recognizes the police are strapped so he is working on drafting legislation that would give the park district security the authority to issue tickets for open containers of alcohol, public urination and dogs off leash.
The alderman said he doesn’t want to see the park return to a haven for illegal activity and gangs.
“I’m not going to allow for thugs and others to try to take our park back to where it was 14 years ago – that’s not going to happen,” he said.
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