Teenage crowd disturbs residents

Elizabeth Campbell

A major disturbance in a south Evanston park this week has raised safety concerns among neighborhood residents.

Brummel Park was closed by Evanston police Tuesday night after about 200 teenagers, many of them armed with sticks or beer bottles, were assembled in the park, said Deputy Chief Joe Bellino of the Evanston Police Department Thursday.

The teens were causing a “general disturbance,” which included yelling, shouting and swearing. An alarmed resident called police, Bellino said.

Officers ordered the teens to leave the park.

Most of those gathered left when ordered to do so, but three juveniles were taken into custody for allegedly not following the officers’ directions, Bellino said.

EPD officers picked up another juvenile Wednesday at about 5 p.m. and took him into custody during a routine tour of Brummel Park, Bellino said. The officer recognized him as one of the people who had eluded police Tuesday night.

“The police department is currently responding to the issue of the disturbances at Brummel Park and considering different strategies to try and eliminate continued calls for service of this nature,” Bellino said.

Rachel Sobel, of the 100 block of Custer Avenue, said she heard loud noises Tuesday night and looked outside to see a large group of people in front of her building.

Sobel lives around the corner from Brummel Park.

Sobel said she is very concerned about the “trouble-making” going on in her neighborhood.

“I have kids,” Sobel said. “I just don’t like them seeing this kind of stuff – a lot of fighting, a lot of cursing, disorderly conduct in general.”

Sobel is a member of a neighborhood watch group that is part of Brummel Park Neighbors.

Brummel Park Neighbors organizes many community-building activities, including helping to increase neighborhood safety, said Michele Hays, the group’s chairwoman.

The south Evanston area has seen other mass disturbances in the past. In September 2003, police arrested two Evanston women after a crowd watched them fight on Mulford Street, just two blocks north of Brummel Park, according to EPD.

Two years later, a 15-year-old Evanston boy was reportedly beaten on an Asbury Avenue sidewalk, three blocks west of the park, resulting in the arrests of nine juveniles and a 21-year-old man.

In response to Tuesday’s incident, Brummel Park Neighbors organized a “positive presence” to promote good behavior in the park, Hays said.

“Kids should be able to use the park, but it’s better to have adult supervision when there’s that many kids around,” Hays said.

Several Evanston adults got together and spent time at the park Wednesday night, Hays said.

“Our hope is that by our being there, we deter crime,” Hays said.

The group works with the Ridgeville Park District and Ald. Ann Rainey (8th), Hays said.

“One of the issues in the community has been the anonymity of kids,” Hays said. The group has organized community events to help residents get to know the kids who hang out in the park – know their names and know who their parents are, Hays said.

While Hays said she doesn’t want to downplay the seriousness of Tuesday night’s incident, she said progress has been made to improve the safety of the community.

“This is a good neighborhood with lots of good people in it,” Hays said, “and if we all pull together, we can address these kinds of problems.”

Bellino said he applauds the initiative of local residents to be active in the community.

“The more we can involve the local residents in community policing initiatives, the more successful we will be,” Bellino said.

Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave., is on Spring Break this week, along with Evanston/Skokie School District 65 elementary and middle schools.

Every year, EPD formulates a summer plan to address the potential problems that warmer weather brings, Bellino said. More people are out and about, Bellino said, and more kids are congregating outside.

“There’s greater potential for incidents to occur in the heat of the summer that you don’t see in the dead cold of the winter,” Bellino said.

Reach Elizabeth Campbell at [email protected]