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Complaints about teens’ behavior boost police presence in Uptown Park Ridge

Additional police officers have been assigned to the Uptown Park Ridge area on weekends amid a growing number of reports of young teenagers causing disturbances, the city’s police chief said. (Jennifer Johnson / Pioneer Press)

Additional police officers have been assigned to the Uptown Park Ridge area on weekends amid a growing number of reports of young teenagers causing disturbances, the city’s police chief said.

Chief Frank Kaminski described an "uptick in complaints" about the behavior of young people in the city’s central business district that has raised concerns, particularly because many of the incidents have involved groups of congregating teens.

A list of "Uptown disturbance calls" compiled by the police department and provided to the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate, shows that between Jan. 20 and Feb. 12, officers responded to 23 calls involving groups of young people. The complaints ranged from three separate reports of teens pounding on doors and setting off a fire alarm inside a condominium building at 50 N. Northwest Highway, to groups hanging out inside restaurants without buying anything, to multiple teens involved in confrontations or making noise.

In the majority of the complaints, the teens were gone by the time officers arrived, the call log indicates, and in two calls, police found young people gathered, but reportedly not doing anything wrong.

Officers did arrest two teenage boys in connection with complaints made by employees of Uptown businesses, according to police reports.

A 14-year-old Park Ridge boy is facing a hate crime charge in juvenile court following allegations that he and a group of other teens yelled ethnic slurs at a store employee and threw dirt and rocks at the store’s windows on Feb. 11, after they were told to leave the business.

Last week, police arrested a 15-year-old Niles boy who allegedly pulled down his pants and exposed himself to a female store clerk in an alley behind Dick Pond Athletics, 29 S. Prospect Ave., on the night of Friday, Feb. 10. According to police, the teen was with a group of 15 to 20 teenagers who were gathered around a small dog that had been tied up in the alley and that, when the store employee approached them, the 15-year-old allegedly used foul language before exposing himself.

He was accused of running from police following the alleged incident, but was identified and charged five days later with disorderly conduct and obstruction, and petitioned to juvenile court, police said.

Kaminski told the Park Ridge City Council on Monday that the department is trying to be "proactive" to avoid a repeat of a serious incident that occurred nearly three years ago and was caught on smartphone video.

"We all remember on July [12], 2014, at Hinkley Park we had an adult parent looking for one of his kids and he was attacked by two other teens," Kaminski said. "As he was being attacked, we had kids in the background cheering it on. So I always get kind of leery about young people in groups."

Two 18-year-olds were charged in the attack and spent time in prison after pleading guilty to felony aggravated battery charges.

Last weekend, officers patrolled Uptown on foot and on bikes in addition to regular car patrols, and members of the city’s Citizens Police Academy were also present in the area, Kaminski said. The department plans to continue this added presence, he said.

"It’s a really delicate balance for the officers because everybody has the right to assemble, no matter how old you are, but the right to assemble and criminal acts are two different things," Kaminski said..

The Park Ridge Public Library has also experienced disturbances involving some teenagers, said Executive Director Janet Van De Carr.

"We’ve had a few instances where a group of teen boys have been very disruptive," she said. "They’ve been asked to leave, and then they run around the library and go up to the teen loft. We’ve had some instances where they were harassing other kids using the teen loft and throwing books on the floor."

Using video surveillance images, the library is working with police to determine if the boys are the same individuals who have been causing disturbances elsewhere in the area, Van De Carr said. Some are believed to have been identified, she added.

"I plan to contact the families and let them know we’ve been having problems here in the library," Van De Carr said.

In December, a 14-year-old Park Ridge boy was identified as the person responsible for destroying the library’s 17 StoryWalk signs, located on the north lawn of the property. Criminal charges were not filed against the boy, but the library arranged for him to pay restitution and commit to 10 hours of volunteer service at the library, police said.

Kaminski said he has suggested the library increase the number of security cameras it has on the exterior of the building. He added that the concerns about teen behavior will be discussed with the Park Ridge Youth Commission and the new Community Advisory Board to see if either group has suggestions for solutions.

"It’s a community problem, and it boils down to all of us making sure we monitor our young people and make sure they are not doing something they shouldn’t be doing," he said, noting that many young people who spend time in Uptown are "respectful" and not causing problems. "I will tell you, if they are doing something wrong and they violate the law, we will hold them accountable."

Kaminski is also calling on parents to "remind their kids about proper behavior in public settings" and to know where their children are.

Twitter: @Jen_Tribune