Riverside’s police chief on Monday made a plea to the Cook County Forest Preserve District and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to beef up patrols in the woods south of the Des Plaines River in Riverside Lawn in the wake of a stabbing there last week.
In a letter to Forest Preserve Police Chief John Roberts and IDNR Police Chief Rafael Gutierrez, Weitzel stated the area has become a particular problem this summer.
“Over the last four to six weeks, this has become a very popular area for people to fish, but it has also become a major concern for criminal activity,” Weitzel wrote. “There is constant public drinking and intoxication that is going on in this area, which eventually leads to disruptions and incidents such as fights, disturbances, public urination and other unruly activity.”
Weitzel asked the chiefs to order their officers to patrol the area and issue tickets for any violations to forest preserve policies. While those agencies may patrol the area on occasion, Riverside and Lyons police are typically the first responders to any incident in Riverside Lawn, even though it is not in either village’s jurisdiction.
“I know your agency is busy and short on manpower like most area municipal police departments, but I ask that when available your officers make their presence known in this area,” wrote Weitzel.
Thomas Sheahan, village manager and acting police chief in Lyons, said officials there “have been and continue to work closely with the forest preserve district police and Chief Roberts.”
“Generally the incidents are in the summer,” Sheahan said. “We’re addressing these incidents and we’re making progress. We have reviewed several years of cases, and it seems to be most are alcohol-related.”
Frank Shuftan, public information officer for the Cook County Bureau of Administration, stated in an email that Roberts had not yet received Weitzel’s letter, but stressed that the law enforcement agencies continue to work together.
“The question of patrols is one that can be addressed as part of such a dialogue,” Shuftan said. “The forest preserve police are aware of the matters that have been raised and will take all necessary and appropriate actions to ensure public safety.”
On June 26, a man said to be in his 40s was seriously injured after a 17-year-old boy allegedly stabbed him in the neck during an altercation in a forest preserve near Joliet Avenue and 39th Street behind Stella’s batting cages.
Someone identifying himself as the victim contacted the Landmark by email on June 29. He stated that he was in the area to fish and had not been in an altercation with the boy who reportedly stabbed him.
Paramedics transported the victim to Loyola University Medical Center where he underwent emergency surgery. The victim told the Landmark in his email that the incident left him with an “18-inch scar across my neck.” The Landmark emailed the man back and provided a phone number to call, but did not receive a response.
Weitzel, meanwhile, said that his officers were called to the scene at about 5:05 p.m. He said his officers described the scene as “a melee” involving six subjects after the stabbing took place.
According to another police source, a Lyons police officer was at the scene at about 5 p.m. interviewing six subjects near the boat launch behind Stella’s, following up on an unrelated previous incident.
As a second police officer pulled up to the scene, he reportedly observed the 17-year-old punch the victim in the neck.
However, according to police, the boy had stabbed the victim in the neck with what appeared to be a carpet cutter — a long, thin razor blade.
The boy reportedly jumped on a bicycle to flee but was grabbed by a police officer. He was taken into custody and later turned over to Cook County Forest Preserve District police.
Sophie Ansari, a spokeswoman for the Cook County Sheriff’s Police, said the 17-year-old boy was charged with aggravated battery and that the case was referred to Cook County Juvenile Court.
Weitzel said the subjects involved in last week’s incident know one another and that alcohol was a factor in the incident.