posttrib
PICTURESQUE 
Weather Updates

Residents in one Lake Station neighborhood fed up with ‘thugs’

Updated: September 9, 2014 6:39AM



LAKE STATION — Mayor Keith Soderquist said the city will come to the aid of residents who said they have been all but imprisoned by delinquents on their block, while a councilman stormed out of Thursday night’s emotional City Council meeting.

Also, another councilman, who was accused of making racist remarks on social media, offered something of an apology.

A stream of residents of the 2800 block of Dearborn Street, on the city’s west end, complained about up to 20 young people wreaking havoc on their block, just one day after Lake Station police raided the house at 2844 Dearborn St.

Residents like Mike Garrett spoke of “a bunch of thugs” spending time at the house, littering the streets and yards, intimidating neighbors and scaring their children and grandchildren.

“I’ve been here my whole life, and I’ve never seen crap like this,” he said.

Residents said they have been enduring trouble at the house for three to four months.

City officials are mostly limited to code enforcement citations, city attorney Ray Szarmach said, but Police Chief Kevin Garber said his officers raided the house Tuesday night, arresting five adults for trespassing, public intoxication, interfering with law enforcement and obstructing traffic at the site, one block from Columbus Park.

About two weeks ago, officers arrested 10 people at the park for a number of offenses, Garber said.

“In that area we’ve been saturating it pretty heavily,” he said “It’s basically squatters there. They come from different homes and they come there to party and have a pillow to crash on.”

Valparaiso resident Armando Nunez, who owns the 2844 Dearborn St. house, said he is trying to evict the tenant. Szarmach later suggested Nunez turn to an Indiana state law that allows landlords to remove tenants with emergency evictions.

Soderquist promised a stronger police presence on the block, but discussion of the troubles there later led to one councilman, Harry Pedroza, 4th District, walking out of the meeting.

As Pedroza, who has complained about problems in Columbus Park for months, was discussing the Dearborn house, he and Councilman Rick Long, 5th District, exchanged heated words, prompting Soderquist to threaten to remove both of them.

“I’ll be happy to leave,” Pedroza said, gathering his belongings and leaving. “I’m sticking up for my people.”

Councilman Todd Rogers, 3rd District, apologized for offending any residents for comments he made on Facebook last month, but he did not apologize for the remarks.

In response to a Facebook posting about immigrant families in the United States, Rogers posted a reply about multiple immigrant families piling into one house.

Rogers’ comment drew condemnation from Pedroza last month, but two residents erupted angrily at Thursday’s meeting, yelling and calling Rogers, who also is council president, a racist.

“I’m sorry if I offended you. It was not meant that way,” Rogers said, tossing a few barbs at Pedroza. “I will not step down as (council) president. I come to all the meetings, unlike some of the other councilmen who talk.”



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.