After Outbreak Of Vandalism, Summer Youth Workers Converge On Connor-Heise Park

Screenshot 2014-07-22 at 7.59.11 PM(Chief Talley overseeing summer workers at Connor-Heise Memorial Park. Photo by Michael Romain for the Village Free Press). 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 || By Michael Romain 

Police Chief Talley, Village officials warn gangs that Maywood won’t tolerate their presence, stricter enforcement on the way

Screenshot 2014-07-22 at 7.55.28 PM

MAYWOOD — BDK (street parlance for BrickSquad, Fly Boy Gang or Black Disciple Killers) is a particularly venomous Chicago gang with tentacles that, by now, may stretch half-way around the world and back thanks to superstar rapper Keith Cozart, also known as Chief Keef. Now it seems that they’ve spread to Maywood, or have already been here for some time and are trying to make more innroads. Last week, Village officials discovered that the gang’s markings had been graffitied throughout Connor-Heise Memorial Park on the corner of 10th and Washington. It was a discovery to which Police Chief Valdimir Talley didn’t take too kindly.

“We’re going to put a stop to this,” he said last Friday, as over 100 teenagers and young adults apart of the Village’s summer youth program hauled trash bags full of yard waste, dirt and litter; pulled at weeds burrowed in the park’s concrete flooring and raked away the signs of its neglect.

Although the youth, who were in the park at the Chief’s direction, didn’t actually remove the offensive markings, the workers’ very presence comprised a symbolic comeuppance for Village officials, who have indicated that they want to send the signal that neither the vandalism nor the gangs responsible for it will be tolerated in Maywood. According to Chief Talley, each tag brings a $1,000 fine.

“We’re going to beautify this place. We’re going to plant flowers under the park’s entrance sign,” said Jonette Greenhow, Mayor Perkins’s executive assistant. Greenhow said that, as soon as they discovered the graffiti, representatives from the Mayor’s office took before and after photos and made a request for graffiti removal equipment.

“What’s most alarming about this is that even the leaders of this group should be upset,” Chief Talley said. “They have kids or probably want to have kids someday. They’d want somewhere nice for their children to play, just like everyone else does,” he said.

“If the leader of this group is an actual leader, he should do enforcement punishment. He should turn in to me whoever did this. He should make that person come in voluntarily, offer a full confession and a willingness to make restitution.”

In addition to the gang’s initials and sprawling, illegible messages–which were sprayed across the park’s entrance sign, on the plastic slides on the park’s jungle gym and on the portable restrooms–the vandals also left offensive, profanity-laced messages in an open, concrete area in the center of the park. It wasn’t clear whether the graffiti markings could be attributed to a single act of vandalism or multiple acts.

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Talley said that he had contacted Cook County’s Graffiti Removal unit and that it would do the job of actually removing the graffiti. He said that there are a range of methods available for removal. One of the most effective is to sandblast the markings away with a baking soda solution. In the longer-term, however, the Chief said that he plans to systematically confront the deeper cause.

Until this point, he said, his department hadn’t experienced any gang-related problems within the park. He noted that the graffiti is a means for the gang to establish its territory–something he said his department is working hard against.

“I’m going to make this area [within proximity of Connor-Heise Memorial Park] a  gang-free zone,” he said. “Three or more gang members will be prohibited from loitering in this area.”

Earlier this year, the Chief made a formal request to the Board for funding to establish an anti-gang unit, should his request for a law enforcement grant to fund the unit fall through. He said the anti-gang unit’s primary responsibility would be to retrieve, categorize and analyze information on gang activity in the Village so that police can more effectively confront it. But law enforcement would only be one dimension of the department’s more comprehensive, community-wide approach.

“I’m going to start walking door-to-door and Officer Pirsia Allen [the department’s community relations officer] is  going to put together a neighborhood watch program to look out for this park,” the Chief said. “We’re not going to allow this to happen in Maywood. Everybody should be up in arms.” VFP

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