NORTH PARK — North Park may be a relatively sleepy corner of the city, but it's not immune to criminal activity, as residents made clear during a community meeting held Tuesday night.
With Lt. Joe Porebski of the Albany Park Police District on hand to answer questions at a gathering of the Hollywood North Park Community Association, neighbors brought up complaints about gangs and "raves" at the area's numerous private social clubs.
As the district "wakes up" from a particularly brutal winter, gang members are flexing their muscles, Porebski said.
"It's not unusual," he said. "It's a seasonal type thing."
Patty Wetli discusses the concerns some residents have about "pop-up" raves in the North Park neighborhood:
Much of the activity is centered around Legion Park, where the Latin Kings, the neighborhood's dominant gang, collides with what Porebski called a "small contingent" of the Royals.
The district's bike patrols should be activated by the end of the month, he said, and will begin making their presence felt along the Chicago River from Peterson Avenue to Horner Park.
In 2013, Porebski coordinated joint patrols with officers from the Foster District, teaming up to cover Legion and River Parks on the river's east and west sides, a practice he said he intends to repeat this summer.
"I'm trying to be creative with the manpower that I have," he said. "All of my supervisors are out on the street. I'm out on the street."
Residents are just as concerned about what's going on behind closed doors, specifically at the neighborhood's private clubs, the majority of them on Bryn Mawr. The "raves" draw large crowds and create disturbances, neighbors said.
Porebski noted that the police department has a unit dedicated to monitoring these clubs — which are legal if they meet specific requirements — but part of the problem, he said, is building owners renting out vacant storefronts for parties.
Officers are able to track some of the events via social media and shut them down proactively, he said, but the majority aren't on the district's radar until calls start coming into 911.
Residents can help by keeping an eye out for suspicious activity in advance.
"Rave locations need time to set up," Porebski said. "They try to move their equipment in through the rear doors in the early morning" so as not to draw attention.
Witnesses should report these movements to the district and ask for the tactical team, he said.