Though attended by a scant few—four police representatives, and four members of the public, including this reporter—Wednesday night’s Beat 1424 CAPS meeting allowed Wicker Park residents’ frustrations about increased drug activity in the area to be aired.
One resident in particular was upset by what the resident said was increased drug dealer presence at the corners of Schiller Street and Damen Avenue, right down the street from the Wicker Park Fieldhouse (1425 N. Damen), where the meeting took place.
“It’s worse now than it even was five years ago,” the resident, who requested anonymity from Chicago Pipeline because of feared retaliation from— and past threats—by the alleged drug dealers said.
“Schiller and Damen—the drug dealers basically own that corner,” the resident said. “It’s a party in the park all night long.”
The resident said concerns aroused because of hangers-on at near the Wicker Park fieldhouse after the park itself had closed.
Despite police efforts, including patrolling the park on bicycles and clearing out the park around its 11 p.m. closing time, the resident said people were still occupying the park well into the early morning.
Sgt. Anita Bielicki stated some of the people the resident described were waiting for The Night Ministry outreach bus, which helps the poor with health care and other services after hours near Wicker Park.
“Part of the problem is that these people are there waiting for food,” Bielicki said.
Bielicki and police officer Jeff Vega then asked the resident what time the alleged drug activity occurs.
Vega in particular said he had not heard any citizens call to report alleged drug activity during the evening hours, which the resident asserted was when the dealing was taking place.
“I work between 3 p.m. and midnight, and the calls just aren’t coming in,” Vega said.
Bielicki also implored citizen action.
“Maybe you need to ask your neighbors for help. We’re not [the only] part of the solution,” Bielicki said. “Help us out, make some phone calls, and together we can make a solution.”
The resident responded by saying citizen action from neighbors in the past resulted in apathetic and hostile responses from police officers, whom the resident said told her that there were more serious crimes, like gang shootings and murders, to deal with.
“Over the years, they become jaded,” the resident said, informing the representatives that this was the first CAPS meeting the resident attended in years, because the resident and the surrounding neighbors became weary from trying to deal with the situation at hand.
Vega in turn said if the resident had photos, descriptions, and license plates of the offenders—the resident did—then to report that information, even if doing so meant being anonymous.
“Phone calls and descriptions—that’s what we need,” Vega said.
After the meeting adjourned, Chicago Pipeline asked the resident if their confidence was restored after hearing the police officers responses. The resident sighed audibly and said the following:
Elsewhere, CAPS representatives started the meeting off sharing data on the total 64 arrests made since the last CAPS meeting in June. They include arrests for cannabis possession, graffiti, and criminal defacement of property.
Regarding graffiti arrests, Bielicki gave praise to the neighborhood bicycle cops for their alertness and expediency, as well as residents who call police when such crimes occur.
“The Wicker Park team is diligent in catching graffiti,” Bielicki said. “They are quite resourceful. The officers are alert, and our citizens are calling in reports.”
A community alert about a purse snatcher trolling Wicker Park parking lots and stealing purses was also issued.
The Pipeline is obtaining a copy of the alert and will share it here.