This article was written by Marissa Levigne for her Communications 205 course at Loyola University.
Voted by Chicago Magazine as one of the top 11 places to live in Chicago, Buena Park is
one of the safer neighborhoods on the north side thanks to its location and a local organization, Buena Park Neighbors.
In between Lake Michigan and Graceland Cemetery, Buena Park lies at the southern end of Uptown. It is a pleasant, safe place to live according citizens and local officials.
However, this wasn’t always the case.
In 1986 Buena Park had problems with loitering and prostitution taking place from Buena Avenue to Belle Plaine. It wasn’t until concerned community members decided to step in that crime began to subside and the community members became more involved.
In an effort to combat crime, Buena Park Neighbors was formed in 1986 to rid these
issues of loitering and prostitution. With increased police presence and closing liquor stores in the problem areas, Buena Park saw a decrease in crime.
Gene Tenner, current facilitator for community policing at Buena Park Neighbors said, “We became more active around 2010. We wanted to do more than just be content with the safety of our neighborhood. Our goal was to get people to know each other, to be more clean and green, and to get community members involved.”
Tenner attends all of the CAPS meetings where Chicago Police announce recent burglaries, assaults, batteries, and any other crime statistics that occurred in the neighborhood. They also discuss any other issues in the neighborhood such as where suspicious characters are hanging around and how to keep your home safe.
Tenner said that the turn out at these crime status meetings is usually low. “We don’t get a lot of attendance at the meetings, because there’s not a lot of crime. Five to six people usually show up, which I believe is a testament to the safety of Buena Park.”
Tenner believes that the reason for the low crime rates in Buena Park compared to other
neighbors in Chicago, is mostly because it lies between a cemetery and the lakefront. The
physical dimensions leave almost no east or westbound escape route for criminals.
Luis Rosendo, 22, a Buena Park citizen said, “I’ve been here my whole life. I know that
there are issues with gang violence and other crime further north of here. I have also been reading a lot online of robberies taking place in Lakeview and Wrigleyville.”
Another resident of Buena Park who has lived there just under two years, Jason Paul, 26,
said his only issue with Buena Park is the spillover of “drunk Cubs fans and partiers” coming from Wrigleyville.
“It’s nice here,” Paul said, “We get some drunks every now and then when the Cubs play,
but once you hit Montrose Avenue and north of there it gets pretty sketchy.”
Tenner believes that community association has a correlation to the safety of Buena Park.
“There is a lot to be said for neighbors helping neighbors,” Tenner said.
He believes that bringing the neighbors and community together is important because if
more people know each other, he or she is more likely to “cover your back.” Tenner added, “I lucked out by choosing to live here, not all neighborhoods in Chicago
are as community oriented as Buena Park.”
President of Buena Park Neighbors, Lisa von Drehle, said, “I started about 5 years ago. I
got involved because I had an idea that we should have a neighborhood festival, and the
president of Buena Park Neighbors at the time, Bill Petty, told me to get it going myself, so I did.”
von Drehle has been the president of Buena Park Neighbors for two years now and thinks the only downfall is the lack of a commercial strip of stores and restaurants. Since it is mostly residential, stores are isolated and von Drehle said she would really like to see a breakfast and lunch spot open up, or a town square where all the stores are located.
Fortunately, even this minor issue will start to be resolved. According to Chicago
Magazine, the former Maryville Academy building, on Montrose Avenue and Clarendon
Avenue, will be turned into retail space and should be complete by 2018.
von Drehle said they hold four general meetings a year. They discuss topics such as local
businesses, fitness, and politics. The meetings are open to the public and they usually get around 90 to 100 people in attendance.
Buena Park Neighbors has an environmental committee, called Buena Green, and an
events and social committee. Their continued efforts help to keep Buena Park a safe and friendly place to live on the north side of Chicago.