Over the last year, the number of shootings in Chicago has fallen. But in Uptown, a neighborhood two miles south of Loyola University Chicago‘s Lake Shore Campus, an increase in gang activity has caused the neighborhood’s gun violence to triple.
The Chicago Tribune has more details:
Drawn to Chicago’s Uptown community by its rich diversity, Mary Dombrowski lives with her husband and preteen daughter in a spacious condo just off Wilson Avenue, a popular thoroughfare frequented by young professionals, dog walkers and mothers pushing babies in strollers.
But just around the corner, on her block of Magnolia Avenue, the Brooklyn native isn’t worried about muggings or burglaries so much as being one of the city’s innocents caught in the middle of a gang gunfight. She’s been on the street just minutes before or after shootings but fortunately never at precisely the wrong moment. “I’ve been lucky, for lack of a better word,” she said.
While not one of the city’s high-crime areas, this melting pot of a community — a mix largely of black, white, Hispanic and southeast Asian residents — has been struggling for years with pockets of gang violence.
In the span of just three days last month, one man was killed and two others wounded in separate daylight shootings on or near Dombrowski’s block. Chicago police say about two dozen others have been shot in Uptown since last summer. While shootings fell last year in Chicago, gun violence more than tripled in the most dangerous parts of Uptown, police statistics show.
Police say a flare-up of a long-running conflict among the Conservative Vice Lords, Gangster Disciples and Black P Stones street gangs is to blame. The battleground centers at Wilson and Broadway near Truman College and a Red Line station.
The gangs “seem to branch out about a block or two from that epicenter,” said Lt. Robert Stasch, who supervises tactical unit officers in the Town Hall District, which includes Uptown. “Those conflicts are over turf, they’re over profit, over drug areas.”
Last month, several days after the shootings on Magnolia Avenue, police closed an estimated $500,000-a-year narcotics operation in and around Magnolia and Wilson with the arrests of six people alleged to be Black P Stone members.
Among those charged with drug delivery was Brayant Rogers, 27, who was already in custody on murder and aggravated battery charges for the fatal shooting of Brian Green, 23, Jan. 4 on Magnolia.
Six months earlier, on the same block, Rogers was himself a victim of violence. He and Aaron Carter, 21, were arguing with other men who opened fire from a vehicle, killing Carter and wounding Rogers in the leg, police said.
In the second shooting last month on Magnolia Avenue, Jarell Davis, 25, was wounded while dropping off his girlfriend to register for classes at Truman. Their 5-month-old daughter was also in the car.
Raised in more dangerous parts of Chicago, Davis said he believes he was mistakenly targeted as a rival gang member simply because of the orange baseball cap he wore cocked slightly to the left.
“In that area, I wasn’t expecting gunshots,” Davis said. “I would’ve taken another route.”
While gun violence in the Town Hall District is far less prevalent than in most other districts, two of its beats within Uptown saw shootings soar in 2010 over the previous year, preliminary police statistics show. Beat 2311 had six shootings compared with three in 2009, while there were 10 shootings in Beat 2313, up from two in 2009.
Dorothy Papachristos, who works with at-risk youth from the North Side as head of Communities Dare to Care, said the increased violence in Uptown stems from the Gangster Disciples and Black P Stones forming an alliance against the Conservative Vice Lords over drug territory.
“Gangs are dysfunctional. They’re fractured,” Papachristos said. “So many of their heads are locked up.”
The violence has become a major issue for the 11 candidates vying in the Feb. 22 election to succeed Ald. Helen Shiller, 46th, who is retiring after 23 years on the City Council.
Shiller and her staff have reached out to local anti-violence groups for help, but she cautioned that discussions of crime in Uptown are often polarizing, creating the perception that “all poor people are criminals,” she said.
“Entire groups of people are demonized when in fact what we want to do is isolate a problem and address it,” she said.
While residents say police respond promptly to trouble, Dombrowski would like to see officers walk the beat more.
“For the police to have the most positive presence in the neighborhood is for them to walk by people, say hello to them and be part of the community,” she said. “It’s a very different relationship than just driving around. I would feel better to know my patrol person.”
Adam Denny moved from Naperville to Magnolia about the time that three teens were wounded last Halloween in a gang-related shooting nearby. Denny admitted he didn’t do a lot of research before moving to Uptown but moved there because it’s less pricey than Lincoln Park or Wrigleyville and just a few train stops away from their nightlife.
“Anywhere in the city you’re going to have problems,” said Denny.
Barbara Miller, who has lived in a single-room occupancy apartment building in Uptown for 14 years, said she simply doesn’t go out at night.
“If I feel brave, I’ll walk to Wilson,” she said. “I feel it’s better for me to walk down Wilson than it was a while ago.”
Jeff Littleton, another tenant in the same apartment building, said the Wilson Red Line station adds to the neighborhood’s image problem.
“It’s a good place to just loiter,” he said. “And it really just gives it a bad feel.”
While shuttered storefronts remain a problem, a number of businesses have opened, most notably a Target store south of Truman College, as well as a hair salon, bakery and wine bar along Wilson Avenue.
A manager at the wine bar said the recent shootings, though, have hurt business.
“When those things happen, we only have neighborhood families come in,” said Michael Carothers, who helps manage Fontana Grill and Wine Bar. “We don’t see the new faces for a little bit. Then when the buzz calms down, it’ll pick up.”
Papachristos notes that the latest violence came during frigid weather, often a deterrent to crime.
“What’s going to happen when it’s warm out?” she wondered aloud.
- Elizabeth Noel
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