By Melinda Czifrak
Leaving one’s child at school shouldn’t be cause for fear. Unfortunately for Guadalupe Garcia, a mother of two, fear has become as much a part of her life as a daily cup of coffee after drug activity was reported a block away from her children’s school.
“We moved to Berwyn over five years ago,” Garcia said. “Back then, the city felt like the perfect place to raise a family.”
Recently, however, Garcia’s feelings toward Berwyn started to change.
“How can I stay at home and not worry when I keep reading about narcotics dealing so close to my children’s school?”
Garcia’s two girls attend Freedom Middle School, a school that appeared in newspapers back in April after it was made public that Jose U. Lechuga, a man with alleged ties to a Mexican drug cartel, had been arrested after selling cocaine within 1,000 feet of the school building.
Lechuga, 40, was arrested and charged with possession of 57 grams of cocaine, as well as cutting materials for cocaine, scales, drug paraphernalia and packaging, according to Riverside Police Chief and West Suburban Enhanced Drug/Gang Enforcement (WEDGE) spokesperson Tom Weitzel.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Garcia said. “This used to be a quiet, safe neighborhood. It didn’t seem like an area where drug dealers and users would mingle.”
The area has stayed relatively drug-free since the incident in April, but Garcia is still on her guard.
“I drive my kids to school every day now,” Garcia said. “Maybe I am being an overbearing mother, but I cannot help it, the safety of my kids always comes first.”
Garcia isn’t the only mother taking precautions.
“Too many drug-related reports have come to our attention lately,” Tiffany Castaneda, a mother of three, said. “All towns have their problems, of course, but I expected the Berwyn Police Department to become more vigilant after this year’s events.”
According to Castaneda, public safety should become more of a priority for the police department.
“The police used to have good communication with the locals when we first moved to the suburbs, over 10 years ago,” Castaneda said. “I’m not saying that they aren’t doing their job, but I was expecting to see more security around the area, at least right after the drug dealer was caught.”
Ana Kelova, a Berwyn resident, said that recent reports of drug dealings and murders in the Berwyn area led her to install a new alarm system in her apartment.
“I feel safer now,” she said. “Some of my friends told me that I was exaggerating, but shortly after I installed the alarm system, a new report of heroin dealings in the city came out, and now, most of them have their own alarm systems installed.”
“Your home should feel like the safest place on earth,” Kelova said. “Unfortunately, Berwyn hasn’t felt safe in a while.”