On Saturday, Oct. 18 around , I came home to what had to be at least 100 teenagers hanging all over the corners and side streets of Marion and Randolph by the YMCA. Cringing at the language being used by the boys across the street to talk with a group of girls in front of the Y, I walked to my home which is two houses down from that corner, and I saw that even more kids were hanging in yards down the street. Several kids were sitting on my fence with their feet braced by my address plaque and, incredibly, even more kids had lowered the tailgate on the pickup truck parked well into my driveway where they had made themselves at home on the bed.

As I approached the teens and asked them to remove themselves from my property, I was barraged by a plethora of obscenities and “cracker” comments. At the mention of the police being called, they started to walk back to the Y and join the other teens who were now literally in the streets, but not without a few parting hand gestures to myself and another neighbor who had come out to see what was going on.

By then, several kids were riding on the hoods of cars through the Marion/Randolph intersection and a large fight was breaking out on
Marion. Not once did I see a single adult-let alone any YMCA staff-outside monitoring/controlling any of these kids. This behavior was going on right outside the front door of the YMCA and its plate glass windows.

The police were called and 6-7 cars showed up quickly as kids ran in all directions away from the Y, and some were screaming, “The @*&%$ pigs are here!” A group of 14-15 kids who ran down
Wisconsin were stopped by one police car where we could then hear them swearing at the officers from halfway down the block.

YMCA management, this is what you bring to our neighborhood? I later found out that this was a “Sweet 16” party. Really? These kids are neither from the neighborhood nor from
Oak Park as was later revealed. I understand the desire to bring kids to a safer place for them to hang out but not at the expense of the neighborhood. I would think that it is also your mission to teach these kids about respecting the police (i.e., not swearing and running from them), respecting each other (not fighting, calling girls “hos,” etc.), safety (riding on car hoods while speeding down the street will get you killed), and respecting the neighborhood and other people’s property.

Only after the police cars were there and kids were rounded up by the police did I see one (one!) adult outside who told a few kids that if they were waiting for a ride to come with her. One adult for 80-100 kids-and that was after the fact. The neighborhood is not conducting a teen night, so why should we clean up after this mess? The police have more important things to do on a Saturday night than chasing after belligerent teenagers and putting them back in the care of the YMCA where they belong.

This is reminiscent of the old YMCA Friday Teen Night problems we used to have but now on a much larger scale. YMCA management, you can do better-you need to do better. If you can’t, then don’t have these parties because it is not the job of the police and the neighborhood to handle these kids once you dump them back out on the streets.

Catherine Smith

Oak Park

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