Residents worried over drugs on block
Tony Mostaccio of Elmwood Park says he has found drug paraphernalia, small bags allegedly used to sell drugs, discarded in his plants. He is concerned about drug activity in the neighborhood. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
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Updated: October 21, 2012 1:19PM
ELMWOOD PARK — The 2900 block of 73rd Avenue is lined with single-family homes, a few apartments, parked cars and, some residents say, drugs.
At a Sept. 5 Community Oriented Policing meeting, Tony Mostaccio, who lives on the block, claimed drugs were being sold and used on the block, which borders Chicago on the north side.
On Sept. 12, the block seemed quiet, but when asked, some residents said one home in particular has caused problems. Wes Kulis, who has lived on the block for 12 years, said this summer he’s seen a lot of people hanging around in the alley. He believes a drug deal was once going on there.
“A teenager sits in the garage and has the door halfway open, cars are coming and going out,” he said.
Virgil Schnock, who grew up on the block, said at one time there were squatters in an empty home across the street from his and drug dealing going on next door to it. He said several months ago he witnessed several drug transactions.
“Definitely more police would make a difference instead of writing tickets when we don’t park on the right side of the street,” he said.
He said the block has been quiet recently, but knows things are changing.
“Over the past few years, I’ve seen a few changes, and it’s not in the direction I’d like it to go,” he said.
Elmwood Park Police Chief Frank Fagiano said police have heard people’s concerns and are working to address them, but could not go into details.
Elmwood Park recently enacted a vacant buildings ordinance in order to get those who are in possession of vacant homes to keep them in better shape. Village Manager Paul Volpe said the village’s vacant property ordinance was already drafted when he took on the position in June and well before last week’s Community Policing Meeting.
He believes the ordinance is about trying to stop a problem before it gets out of control.
“The amount of potential problems vacant and abandoned homes can be; I’ve seen that first hand,” he said. “We are trying to get out in front of it.”
He said the legislation is aimed at the banks that eventually take over foreclosed and abandoned homes.
“All too often, the banks don’t take responsibility for the properties and we want to make sure that they do,” he said.
Volpe said the village has cleaned up about 20 empty properties where grass needed to be cut and trees trimmed. The bill for the work will be sent to the respective banks.
Joanne Hanns, who owns an apartment building on the block, said she had some trouble with one of her renters, but evicted them. She has lived in the area for 20 years and has owned the building for about eight. She has also seen the environment change, with owners changing to renters.
Angel Rivera, who has lived on the block for 14 years, said he’s seen drugs sold openly since March and believes one person is the main culprit. Although drug sales haven’t been as they once were, he said he wants it gone for good.
“I will be at the next Village Board meeting,” he said. “We’re going to continue until the police do something about it and let them know that we are not going away.”