By Michael Romain
For 12 years, Gordon Hanson has served on the Village’s liquor commission under Mayors Connor, Yarbrough and now current Mayor Perkins. He’s a former library trustee. He’s an Area Two facilitator for the Maywood Alternative Policing Strategies (MAPS) program. He’s also a former private investigator, which became evident the morning I shadowed him on one of his daily walks through Veterans Memorial Park.
“You know, the ground speaks to you. I was always a fan of Sherlock Holmes. He could walk in a park like this and sense things and make deductions that you and I wouldn’t be able to. I’m trying to train myself to do that.”
If, through the garbage that lay scattered about, the Park was saying something to us, it could not have been pleasant chatter. If the Park speaks, it cries for help. And Mr. Hanson seems one of the few people listening.
Above, Mr. Hanson points out the different colored drug bags that he gathered within minutes of perusing the grounds. The different bags signify that there’s more than one dealer from which addicts can buy. Intermingled with the bags are cigarette filters and cigarillo tips, which can be utilized for various illicit purposes. Discovering drug paraphernalia in Veterans Memorial Park is as easy as bending down. Imagine young children playing in the park. This may often be how their curiosity gets rewarded.
On first glance, this may seem like mere shrubbery lining the tracks, but if you walk closer and peer inside, it’s actually an encampment, temporary home to drunken squatters. Mr. Hanson once discovered a man in a drunken sleep inside greenery just west of this one, right off of the parking lot adjacent the library. An ambulance was dispatched to the scene to take the man to the hospital.
Inside of the large bushes throughout the Park, such as that shown above, we discovered mounds of liquor bottles, tooth brushes and toilet papers smeared with human feces, evidence that there are people using the Parks as a kind of residence. The morning I shadowed him, Mr. Hanson ran into Terry Powell, a public works employee who was busy trimming the bush in which the drunken man was found. Mr. Hanson told Mr. Powell that he was trying to find some grant money to fete the Village’s hard-working employees. “My daughter got married in Puerto Rico,” said Mr. Hanson, “and we had two big roasted pigs. Beautiful! I want to do that for you guys, Terry.”
Behind the large bush pictured above, we discovered more evidence that people were taking up residence in the Park. On top of the cardboard, there were clothes and book bags. “The Maywood Police are overtaxed,” said Mr. Hanson. “So we need to create a process to correct these problems without burdening them.” VFP
In part two, we explore more of Veterans Memorial Park and Mr. Hanson’s proposed solutions.