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Informal Street Survey: Crime Down in Boystown

A rainbow pylon on North Halsted Street at Wes...
Pylon marking Boystown boundary. Image via Wikipedia

Suzanne Stafford says she has felt safe living in the Boystown neighborhood, where she has lived for six months.

“I’m not really scared around here, or worried about it, but again we do live in the city,” Stafford said. “You never know, but you just have to really think about what you’re doing. For me it’s more common sense.”

Stafford, 33, said she’s never had an incident in her neighborhood in which her safety was in jeopardy. Her neighbor was the victim of theft and that was the only crime she’s heard about, Stafford said. However, she said it was important to always take precautions such as to stay on well-lit streets, no matter how safe the area may seem.

“So far there only has been one instance on our block, a neighbor’s car was put on cement blocks and someone stole two of his tires, but no one was hurt,” Stafford said. “For me it’s about locking your doors, being aware of your surroundings, definitely don’t go down the alleys and stuff like that. If you see someone you’re wary of then go the other way.”

Recently, Stafford was interviewed in an informal street survey about neighborhood crime in Boystown. While most of those interviewed said they felt safe in their neighborhood, they also added that there are certain steps they take to avoid being victimized.

Theft is the most commonly occurring crime in the Boystown area, according to Officer Tony Martinez.

According to Everyblock—a website that tracks crime— Boystown is one of the safer areas of the city. Within a four-day period, the neighborhood had 10 crimes ranging from theft, vandalism and robberies.

In comparison, within the same period, in the Englewood neighborhood— located on the city’s Southwest Side — there were 74 crimes, which ranged from simple and aggravated assaults, theft, criminal trespass, narcotic possession, criminal damages, deceptive practices and unlawful possession of firearms.

Martinez, a foot officer who patrols from 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. during the weekday in Boystown, said despite some neighborhood thefts and robberies, it was mostly a peaceful community.

“It has been kind of quiet this year,” he said. “I’ve been on this beat for 12 years, and this is the quietest it’s ever been.”

Boystown has grown into a cultural center for the LGBT residents living within the Chicago metropolitan area. Located on the North Side, Boystown is a district within the Lakeview neighborhood. It is a triangular area bordered by Halsted, Broadway and Belmont streets.

According to U.S. Census data, Lakeview had a population of 94,817 residents in 2000. This made it the second largest Chicago community area by population, following the Austin community, which had 117,527 residents.

Martinez said violent crimes occur only when people leave bars late at night and walk by themselves. He added that the people who commit the crimes aren’t residents of the neighborhood, and usually come from the West and South sides.

“I keep a close eye on the El station because if someone commits a crime, this is where they come,” he said. “They commit the crime, then get on the El and leave the neighborhood.”

The nightlife of the neighborhood and El station, also, made other residents take precaution.

Jason Ewing, 42, said he’s always aware of his surroundings and when needed he tries to walk in groups.

“Overall, I think it’s a pretty safe neighborhood except for maybe late at night, [and] I would contribute some to late nightlife and the people who come in through the El,” Ewing said. “I try to go out in a group late night, don’t be alone. Be aware, when you leave a restaurant or something and someone looks suspicious.”

Jason Breunig, 19, said staying in groups is the safest way to enjoy the nightlife in the area.

“I usually try to stick to the more populated roads, [and] I feel like if I’m in a place where enough people see me no one’s going to try anything,” Breunig said. “The more witnesses there are, why would someone go and do something?”

However, he said he believed Boystown was one of the safest areas in the city, and the majority of families living in the community made him feel safe.

“With kids in the neighborhood, chances are it’s usually safer, at least in my opinion, [and] I have yet to see anything,” Breunig said.

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