UPTOWN — Despite problems with gangs and illegal drugs in and around Clarendon Park, Uptown residents and park employees said security guards were yanked from the park in a cost-cutting move by the Chicago Park District.
Two off-duty police officers used to be stationed at the park, 4501 N. Clarendon Ave., from 4-10 p.m. weekdays. One would be inside the field house while the other would patrol the park itself.
But there's been no security since Feb. 12, something that has emboldened some of the gang members who frequent the park, according to Uptown resident Katherine Boyda, president of the Clarendon Park Advisory Council.
Boyda said gang members have "over the years used Clarendon Park for many activities."
"They sell drugs on the premises, and we've had several situations where they've actually ran into the field house last year when they were being shot at," Boyda said.
Now, "they're getting bolder" with no security guards around, she said.
People have been spotted by park staffers gathering in the park and field house gym — where the smell of marijuana has become more common, Boyda said.
"We're working with the alderman to get the park security reinstated ASAP," Boyda said, referring to Ald. James Cappleman (46th).
Cappleman's office said the alderman was working to get security back at the park, but as of Monday evening there were no updates beyond that.
Uptown resident Amy Levin is the facilitator for weekly CAPS meetings for beat 1914, which includes Clarendon Park.
"I'm really hoping for a swift resolution," Levin said. "Because I don't think I'm the only person hoping we're going to warmer weather soon, and we know that there's statistically an uptick in public safety issues when the weather starts to warm up."
She said that when it was brought up at a meeting last week, neighbors were "quite surprised" to learn security had been pulled and found it hard to grasp why the decision had been made.
Park District officials have not responded to multiple requests for comment on the security situation, but one park staffer said it was due to "budgetary issues."
Tressa Feher, chief of staff to Cappleman, said that Clarendon Park hadn't been the only victim of security cuts and that the Park District also had dismissed security guards at other parks across the city.
"We don't know if it was for budget reasons," she said. "I really have no idea."