In Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, Donte Gilliam was walking to his job with the CTA when he was suddenly confronted by a man. On the corner of Lawrence and Kenmore, five guys surrounded him; four of them had guns.
“The guy asked me what I was doing. I told him I was on my way to work. He told me I couldn’t be coming across here, at this time in the morning, wearing dark colors. I told them: look, I’m on my way to work. If you’re going to shoot me, shoot me,” Gilliam said.
Gilliam knew he was in a potentially dangerous neighborhood in part because he reads crime reports on the social networking site, EveryBlock. Gilliam often goes to EveryBlock, a website that allows people to follow neighborhood news such as crimes and upcoming events in their area.
Becca Martin, director of community management for EveryBlock says, “In many cases this information is already on the web but is buried in hard-to-find government databases, and in some cases the information has never been posted online. At EveryBlock, we forged relationships with governments to make it available.”
Ald. James Cappleman (46th ward) is a fan of EveryBlock, and said he might use it in a greater way in the future.
The information comes from CLEARMAP, a website that allows the Chicago Police Department to map out crimes. Currently, EveryBlock has listed 17 crimes in 15 hours for the neighborhood of Uptown, ranging from retail and car theft to drug possession and vandalism. EveryBlock allows people to find out exactly where and what is going on.
“I’m very pleased with EveryBlock,” Cappleman said. “I think it is an incredible way to communicate.”
Another popular website covering neighborhood news is Uptown Update. Similar to EveryBlock, this blog site posts about exclusively Uptown events. The site shares information about construction sites and neighborhood happenings– it even reminds its visitors to register to vote.
Rebecca Mauro is a graduate student at Columbia College Chicago who uses the site to find out about new businesses and crime in her area.
“I really like Uptown Update,” she said. “ When anything happens they post about it ASAP. “
Mauro said she isn’t afraid of crime in Uptown, “People are really nice to me. Maybe it’s because I am a female.” On Uptown Update, Mauro said she reads about local shootings and is fearful about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. “I’m more worried about ricocheting bullets than creepers coming up to me,” she said.
There are many schools in Uptown, like Harry S. Truman College, and Cappleman believes there are public safety issues surrounding them that must be addressed.
“Students are concerned about the violence in and around this area,” Cappleman said. “We’ve had shootings and many students are withdrawing from Truman college. They said they don’t want to go to school here because of the violence.”
Roger Gurra works in the public safety office for Truman College. He said the school has made many changes in the safety program by increasing coverage of officers.
But Gilliam, who had four guns pointed to his back just last month, said he isn’t going to risk not thinking about it: “Crime is an issue in Uptown. It’s getting to point where you don’t feel comfortable walking anymore,” he said.
“We have this big mess, and fixing this mess is very difficult to do,” Cappleman said.