Teen angst

Sister Paula Beierschmitt, a nun who lives in the convent at St. Monica’s Church, called police four times two weeks ago, hoping they would chase away a pack of kids drinking alcohol in the school stairwell.

Ray Wicker confronted a gang of about 75 youths disturbing his neighborhood near Chadwick and Porter streets only to get threatened, cursed out, and, he said, have milkshakes thrown at his windows.

"I must have dialed 911 25 times," Wicker said.

Complaints like these are becoming more frequent in the area around St. Monica’s, 17th and Ritner streets. Residents also list among their complaints youths lighting firecrackers and throwing them at passing cars, lewd behavior, drug use and vandalism.

The Broad Street West Civic Association held a meeting Monday at the Guerin Recreation Center, 16th and Jackson streets, to discuss the problems. More than 50 people from the neighborhood attended, along with Lt. Mary Farrell of the First Police District and a representative from Council President Anna Verna’s office.

John Furey, president of Broad Street West, said the session was intended not only to make police aware of problem areas, but also to organize the neighborhood.

"Some weeks, it is easier to deal with than others," he said, "but progressively every year, it gets worse and worse."

Residents said the most troublesome intersections included 17th and Porter, 15th and Porter, 15th and Shunk, Chadwick and Shunk, and 18th and Oregon.

Sister Beierschmitt labeled the disruptive youths — both boys and girls, ranging from 12 to 16 — as a "chronic problem" during the eight years she has been stationed at the church, although most at the meeting said the problems have increased since April.

Most of the residents blamed parents for not taking responsibility for their children.

"The parents don’t know where their children are at 1 a.m.," Sister Beierschmitt said. "Why don’t they know where their children are at that hour?"

Ray Wicker’s wife, Loretta, voiced similar concerns. "[Parents] have to know where their children are at night. They are terrorizing neighborhoods and they are misbehaving so badly," she said. "They are doing damage to property and they are threatening people."

Furey said he listens to frequent complaints from neighbors frustrated by the perception that the city ignores them.

"We should be getting something for our tax dollars. We are not getting the services, we don’t have enough police," Furey said. "If you are a homeowner and a taxpayer, you are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of your property."

Ray Wicker suggested neighbors should organize to supplement the work of police.

"Chasing kids from corner to corner is not going to do it. As a community, these people have to get together," he said. "These kids have to be caught, they have to be broken up as a crowd."

Farrell assured the neighbors that First District Capt. Thomas Welsh was making a "concerted effort" to remedy the problem.

"The captain is trying," she said. "He is always asking for more police personnel, but we don’t always get it."

She added that officers would tighten enforcement of the curfew. According to city ordinances, minors are not allowed on the street without an adult after 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The curfew extends to midnight on weekends.

Youths picked up by police are either taken home or brought to district headquarters, where a parent must retrieve them. Penalties include fines up to $300 and community service.

Farrell encouraged residents to continue calling 911 or the district headquarters to report problems.

And there may be help for homeowners on at least one night traditionally associated with teen mayhem.

Municipal Judge Seamus McCaffery reportedly plans to hold court in the area on Mischief Night, Oct. 30. Furey said he hopes the judge will hold court another night between now and then as well.