Tag: Tom Aftanas

Expect to See More Off-duty Police at CTA Blue Line Station Soon

CTA Blue Line

The Forest Park Blue Line terminus. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Commuters who frequent the Chicago Transit Authority’s Forest Park Blue Line terminus, 711 S. Desplaines Ave., should expect to see more off-duty Forest Park police officers patrolling the facility soon.

At a council meeting last month, Forest Park’s board voted unanimously to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the CTA, which would allow full-time Forest Park police officers who are working off-duty to patrol CTA properties in that village, according to a recent Forest Park Review report.

The review noted that Forest Park Police Chief Tom Aftanas said “contract details are still being worked out and a start date for the program has yet to be determined.”

According to Aftanas, “one off-duty officer will work in uniform from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. daily, including weekends and holidays, patrolling CTA property in the village, including buses, trains and property.” VFP

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Heroin Use On The Rise In Affluent Western Suburbs

Heroin spoon.jpeg

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 || Originally Published: Wednesday Journal, Inc. || 5/3/16 || By Tim Inklebarger

Heroin use and the abuse of prescription opioid medication is on the rise nationwide, and evidence of its impact in Chicago’s suburban communities is seeping into public spaces.

A 36-year-old man was found dead last week in the stall of a second-floor bathroom at a Kohl’s department store, 2200 Harlem Ave., in North Riverside. Hypodermic needles and other paraphernalia found at the scene suggest a heroin overdose. The cause of death has not been announced and police are awaiting the results of a toxicology report by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

On April 21, River Forest police were called to Whole Foods Market, 7245 Lake St., after a man had locked himself in the public bathroom and refused to open the door. Police report the man, a 34-year-old Chicago resident, was found in possession of a gram of heroin and other paraphernalia.

“This drug has a grip on large sections of society,” River Forest Police Chief James O’Shea said in a telephone interview, calling the spread of heroin an “epidemic.”

He said it’s not uncommon for local police to get called out to shops at River Forest Town Center, 7265 Lake St., where Whole Foods is located, according to O’Shea. But that shopping center isn’t alone in its exposure to the heroin epidemic.

“The Lake and Harlem area would be considered a ‘hot spot’ for people using heroin or being found in possession of it or suffering from the symptoms of overdose,” O’Shea said.

Other clues reveal that heroin use along the commercial corridor has become enough of a problem that at least one business has closed its bathroom to the public. Oak Park Township President David Boulanger told Wednesday Journal that a recent trip to CVS Pharmacy, just south of the CTA Green Line from the Whole Foods, revealed that the shop no longer allows patrons to use its bathroom.

In April, Boulanger was told by a store employee that it was closed “because we kept finding people in there shooting up,” he said.

Forest Park Police Chief Tom Aftanas confirmed that heroin use is prevalent along Harlem Avenue, which borders Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest. He said “just about every place you can stop and park” has been exposed to public heroin use.

Aftanas explained that users frequently come into the area on the Green Line or Metra train after scoring heroin in the city. They use the drugs in more affluent communities because of the reduced likelihood they’ll be robbed.

“They generally want to go someplace where they’re not going to be noticed,” he said.

That means parked cars, public bathrooms and other out-of-the-way spaces where they hope to go unnoticed. He noted that the Dunkin’ Donuts at 7200 Circle Ave., located in the parking lot of the aforementioned CVS, has had several incidents over the years involving heroin use in its bathroom.

Aftanas noted that several businesses along Harlem now restrict use of their public bathrooms and are calling police sooner when they suspect heroin users have entered their business.

 He said overdoses have spiked slightly in the last six months in Forest Park, in part because of cheap, available heroin and also because of more dangerous chemicals being used with the drug.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said it is seeing a rise in deaths from use of the drug fentanyl, an opioid up to 100 times more potent, often used alone or in conjunction with heroin and other drugs.

“Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues [illicit versions of fentanyl] are a huge concern because fentanyl is 20 to 100 times more potent than heroin, posing a much greater risk of overdose,” Dr. Steven Ask, emergency medicine physician and toxicologist at Stroger Hospital, said in a Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office press release in April. “In many cases, one dose of naloxone, the heroin antidote, will revive a person who has overdosed on heroin. But we are seeing people in our emergency department who need as many as four doses as naloxone to be stabilized after ingesting fentanyl, or a heroin/fentanyl combination.”

The Medical Examiner’s Office said fentanyl poses an even greater risk than heroin because of its potency. There have been 106 deaths attributed, at least in part, to fentanyl in Cook County since September, according to the Medical Examiner. That’s compared to 20 such deaths in all of 2014.

O’Shea said the heroin problem is not only one of people shooting up and possibly overdosing, but it also has increased shoplifting and theft in the area. Batteries, liquor, Red Bull energy drink and over-the-counter medication, among others, are frequently shoplifted items to be sold to fencing operations for pennies on the dollar, he said.

“They sell it and use that money to fund their drug habits,” O’Shea said. “The people we arrest or interview on the street, a lot of them will readily admit they have to do something to earn money, and a lot of them are nonviolent individuals, so they will steal and find a place that will purchase their goods.”

O’Shea said they’ve used such information to track down and bust illegal fencing operations in Chicago. VFP

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P A I D  A D V E R T I S I N G

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Bellwood Man Sentenced in 2009 Murder Case

Darrel ToppsFriday, May 29, 2015 || Originally Published: Forest Park Review || 5/26/15 || By Thomas Vogel

An unresolved 2009 murder case finally concluded this past April. The six-year-old case, which included a hung jury, ended with the accused man accepting a plea deal.

Around 10 p.m. on June 15, 2009, Kenyana Bates, an 18-year-old University of Illinois student, sat in a parked car outside an apartment complex at 837 Dunlop Ave. in Forest Park. Two other individuals, both males, were also sitting in the vehicle.

Suddenly, a gunman, firing from a nearby car, directed 15 rounds at the three individuals, killing Bates. The driver was hit in the left shoulder but recovered. A third passenger was unharmed. Four days later, Forest Park detectives, in collaboration with a west suburban gang task force, arrested Darrel Topps (pictured), then 28, of Bellwood, on first-degree murder charges.

Authorities believed Bates was not the intended target. Instead, they posited Topps was aiming for one of the other passengers, allegedly a rival gang member. Officials later discovered Topps attempted to shoot the same man while driving on the Eisenhower Expressway in July 2008.

As reported by the Review, Topps’ trial began in 2012 but two jurors refused to convict and the proceedings ended with a hung jury.

“Some of the witnesses seemed to have changed their stories,” Police Chief Tom Aftanas (then deputy chief) said at the time. “We are disappointed, to say the least,” he concluded then.

Before this latest incident, Topps had been incarcerated two times. One incident, in 2002, involved fleeing a police officer and a second, in 2005, was for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

According to the Cook County State’s Attorney, the case concluded last month when Topps pled guilty to a second-degree murder charge. Gregory Ginex, associate judge of the Cook County Circuit Court, sentenced Topps to 15 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

“The state’s attorney presented him with a plea deal … [and] he didn’t want to risk a second trial,” Aftanas told the Review.

Accounting for time already served, Topps will be eligible for parole in November 2016.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office did not respond to requests for comment by press time. VFP

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