Press "Enter" to skip to content

With A New Alderman, Uptown Still Struggles with Gang Violence and Crime

It was a late afternoon in Uptown. As commuters started to make their way home from work on Dec. 5, a police SWAT team, a helicopter

Via Fuzzy Gerdes

and about two dozen police cars surrounded a building in the 4600 block of North Broadway Street, where, after an arrest was made, three other men barricaded themselves as federal agents tried to question them involving a firearms investigation.

After a nearly six-hour standoff, the suspects surrendered peacefully. No one was hurt.The episode, shocking even for a neighborhood accustomed to routine shootings and gang violence, has residents and local groups concerned the problem might be spiraling out of control.“Uptown has a serious gang problem,” said one writer from Uptown Update, a local news blog which tracks crime in the neighborhood, among other subjects. “I’ve lived here for more than 20 years, and the neighborhood has gotten better, but the gangs have gotten worse.”

The blogger asked to remain anonymous because of repeated threats from gang members and a legal suit filled by a developer’s attorney who didn’t like the blogger’s comments on a project in the neighborhood.

Just a few years back when a shooting would happen – mostly in the summer – neighbors would talk about it for months. Now shootings happen weekly and sometimes “even more frequently,” said the writer.

“We’ve had two big undercover busts this year – operation ‘Sugar Magnolia’ and operation ‘Uptown Girl,” the blogger said in an e-mail interview.

“Some people believe – I don’t know enough to know that it’s true or not – that the recent escalation in violence comes from gangbangers who were imprisoned in those stings, and previous ones, coming back to the neighborhood and trying to reassert their position in the gangs.”

Chris Johnson, who has lived in Uptown for eight years in a two-bedroom condo he owns, said he feels the safety in the area has improved over the past decade.

“There are fewer people wandering on the streets, and I generally feel safe when I walk around the neighborhood,” said Johnson, director of technology at New Trier High School. “But I’ve had a bullet from a car-to-car drive-by on Montrose go through my balcony door frame and bounce off my kitchen cabinet in my first year in Uptown, followed by a shooting right outside my place two years later. But I haven’t personally seen anything beyond that since then.”

While police were still dealing with the early December standoff, approximately 80 Uptown residents gathered at a previously scheduled ward meeting with Ald. James Cappleman (46th) and police representatives to discuss new proposals for the area and address its most vexing issue – crime.

“We’re encouraging participation from residents to help deal with the very complex issues of gangs and crime in the neighborhood,” said Dana Fritz, a Cappleman aide. “When people get in touch with their block clubs, (Chicago Alternative Police Strategy) meetings and other local organizations they can also contribute to fighting problems.”

Keith Redmond, who has lived in Uptown for seven years, said the area has gotten safer over the past few years, despite hearing disturbances and fights every night in the alley behind his building at Sheridan Road and Argyle Street.

“I feel that a strong police presence is a major reason why the neighborhood feels safer, and if that police presence were to lessen for any reason, I feel that Uptown would lose a lot of its new-found safety,” said Redmond, a cashier at Trader Joe’s. “I try to stay safe and not wander around at night when I don’t need to be out, but that’s a given in most neighborhoods in Chicago.”



Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *