Despite Blue Island’s ranking as one of the state’s most crime-ridden cities, residents in this far South Side community say they feel it’s a safe place to live.
According to City-data.com, a website that provides information on urban areas, Blue Island is ranks at 84 among the top 101 cities in Illinois in 2006. The site said Blue Island had the highest number of assaults in Illinois per 10,000 residents.
The city is divided into three neighborhoods: Uptown and Downtown Blue Island and the California Gardens.
Bianca Alcantar, 20, a resident of Downtown Blue Island, said she feels safe in her neighborhood.
“I can walk to the store during the day and return home safely. I’m just most concerned about the evening time,” Alcantar said. “I’ve never been a victim of crime, but my family sure has.”
A few of Alcantar’s family members who live in Downtown Blue Island have experienced home invasions and vandalism of their homes.
In 2009, out of 100 crimes in Blue Island, 43 percent were theft, 31 percent were burglaries, 12 percent were assaults and 14 percent were other crimes, according to City-data.com.
City-data.com crime index gives serious crimes and violent crimes more weight. It adjusts for the number of visitors and daily workers commuting into cities.
Kiara Jones, 22, has lived in the California Gardens for 11 years. She said she feels safe and appreciates how the police consistently drive around to make sure no crimes are being committed in her area.
“It makes me more comfortable knowing that they are always patrolling,” Jones said.
Although she has not personally been a victim of crime in Blue Island, she is aware that crimes do take place.
“The crimes here are not very serious, nor do they happen often enough for me to be extremely worried,” Jones said. “There is sometimes petty theft or damage to property done by younger children, but nothing to fear for in regards to my safety.”
Regardless of residents feeling safe in the community, crime takes place.
A few weeks ago, a murder was reported in The California Gardens.
On the morning of Oct. 22, Bryant M. Jones, known as BJ, was fatally shot less than a block from his home in the 2800 block of 141st St., according to Blue Island’s newspaper, South Town Star.
According to the Chicago Tribune, there was no immediate information available from the Blue Island Police Department about the circumstances leading up to Jones’ death.
“I live two houses down from where this young man was shot and I didn’t find out about it until my daughter told me it was her friend,” said resident Lisa Gilmore.
Gilmore has lived in California Gardens for 11 years also. Before this incident, she said she felt safe because there isn’t a lot of traffic in and out of her community.
“I have an alarm system and I call the police when I see unknown people in my neighborhood,” Gilmore said. “I keep my doors and windows locked along with looking out of my window at least every hour to see what’s happening on my block.”
A community meeting is held the first Tuesday of every month. At these meetings residents discuss what issues they have had the previous month and what changes need to be made for them to feel safer.
The majority of the residents interviewed said they believed Blue Island is a safe town.
Erin Ward, 21, said she feels Blue Island is a generally safe community. The problem, however, is the surrounding suburbs.
“Robbins, Markham and Riverdale all surround Blue Island,” Ward said. “These neighborhoods bring trouble into my town.”
According to residents, gangs aren’t popular. However, gangs in the surrounding suburbs come to the Blue Island.
“The gang bangers come from Robbins, nearly two blocks away from Blue Island, to start fights with our neighborhood kids,” Gilmore said.
Some residents said crime is connected to poverty in the area.
“In low-income areas, violence occurs more often,” said Dexter Johnson Jr, another resident of California Gardens. “People with low incomes have to protect and care for their families, which leads to robbing and selling drugs.”
Johnson, 20, said he feels safe because his father is alderman of the 7th Ward, in California Gardens.
“My dad, Dexter Johnson Sr., is a community activist; he implores new ideas to help better the community,” Johnson said. “Tommy A. Brown, another community activist, teams up with my father to create new opportunities in order to make our community a safer place to live.”
According to City-data.com, California Gardens is predominately African American. The Blue Island Recreational Center and Gordon Middle School are both located there, along with a few churches.
Uptown Blue Island, which has mostly white residents, holds most of the chain restaurants and businesses. This area also includes Dwight D. Eisenhower High School, the Blue Island Public Library, the police station, a Salvation Army and car dealerships.
Downtown Blue Island is where a majority of the businesses such as diners, bars, mom and popshops, and antique stores are located; most of the residents in this part of Blue Island are Hispanic.
Blue Island boundaries from north to south are 119th to 144th street and east to west from Kedzie to Vincennes.