Hamilton Park resident Eiland Collins recently read an article in the Advocate discussing Lake Highlands North Recreation Center’s teen loitering problem.

He immediately picked up the phone. His concern: another teen loitering problem in Lake Highlands.

According to Collins, too many teens are loitering in front of Village Grocery and Check Cashing in Forest Central Village shopping center at Forest and Schroeder, which is just west of the Hamilton Park entrance.

“They’re shooting dice and just loitering,” Collins says.

“It looks real bad when you’re turning into the neighborhood,” says Bervin Smith, the neighborhood’s interactive community police officer.

According to crime analysts in the Northeast Division Police Department, there have been four arrests at 8151 Forest (the shopping center’s address) and 13 criminal offenses reported from the location since June 1996.

Another problem the neighborhood faces is that the owners of the grocery store don’t complain about the loitering because the teens are consistent business for the store, Smith says.

“We try to run them off, but we can’t make them because it’s private property,” Smith says.

But Amy-Yi, a full-time employee of Village Grocery and Check Cashing and daughter-in-law of the store owners, says store employees call police four to five times weekly because the store’s customers complain about the loitering.

Yi says some customers are afraid to approach the check-cashing window.

“All I can do is just call the police,” Yi says.

According to police records, the manager of Village Grocery called police six times during the last six months of 1996, but there have been no identifiable calls from Village Grocery in 1997.

Collins, who is president of the Hamilton Park Civic League and the Hamilton Park Homeowners Association, has asked the community for support to help combat the problem, but he says neighbors are afraid to call police because they are concerned the teens will seek revenge, Collins says.

“I don’t think you run that problem if you make the call from an anonymous standpoint,” says City Councilman Alan Walne.

Walne says a community effort is needed to combat the problem, and parents need to take an active role in their children’s activities.

But Collins says some neighborhood parents haven’t taken an active role for years, and the only way they will is if they are held responsible for their children’s actions.

“If possible, the parents should be put in jail,” Collins says. “Either lock the kids up or the parents up.”

Walne says it’s unlikely parents will be jailed, but he hopes neighborhood residents will join together to battle the problem.

“One of the things we’re going to try to do is rally the troops,” Walne says. “We’ve got to start coming together.”

For information about an upcoming community forum concerning teen drinking, call Walne at 214-670-4068.