Everytime Luana McIntosh relocates to a new residence to get away from gangs in her Rogers Park neighborhood, she finds the same turf wars , the same issues of violence at her new home.
“It’s still the same nonsense,” said McIntosh, who is 62.
McIntosh is among the residents in this North Chicago neighborhood who are tired of talking about gang problems but want to find a solution. Residents have brought their complaints to community police meetings, though some said the problem isn’t with police , but with private property owners.
After a September shooting incident in Rogers Park where a man allegedly fired gun shots through his apartment window, members of the community urged police to take action against property owners who allow illegal activity to transpire on their property.
Rogers Park resident Jill Murray is concerned about drug houses in the area. Although the threshold for gang activity is low in her area, Murray said she wants the community and police to work together to make gangs and their cohorts feel uncomfortable.
“No one elected them,” Murray said . “They don’t own a street corner or neighborhood, and we need to remind them of that.”
Murray said there are many “slumlords” in the community who will turn a blind eye to illegal activity at the expense of making a profit.
But Police said the city has legislation that will combat this issue.
“Understand we have ordinances,” said Police Officer Robin Popelka “But there are very strict guidelines we have to follow to submit a case.”
The city’s Drug and Gang House Ordinance holds property owners and managers accountable for drug trafficking, as well as gang activity that occurs on their premises. Any owner that allows illegal activity that is declared a felony or misdemeanor crime can be fined between $200 to $6000 each day the violation occurs. The property must have two incidents within a six month period before a case can be submitted.
When a case is initiated, a building will undergo a plumbing, electrical and conservation inspection and a constructional report of the findings will be put together, said Popelka. In addition, Popelka said a report documenting the criminal activity associated with a building will also be compiled and will determine whether a building qualifies as a drug or gang house.
Popelka said property owners who fail to comply with the ordinance will have their case turned over to the city law department and their case will be handled through the court system. Cooperation from property owners in the Rogers Park area varies, said Popelka. She said some landlords will comply to the ordinance, while others refuse to take action.
Popelka said the suspect in the shots fired incident was arrested and the building didn’t qualify as a drug and gang house.
Thomas Waldera, police commander of the 24th district, said cracking down on drug houses isn’t an easy task, referring to cooperation with landlords.
“The hurdle is high when going after it,” Waldera said “It’s not that we’re going to quit, but it is a high hurdle and it’s tough.”
In addition to the drug houses, Waldera said gang rivalry is another issue in the Rogers community. Waldera said gangs have uploaded YouTube videos that depict the Rogers Park and Farewell-Ashland gangs taunting one another with guns.
Waldera said about 50 percent of the people identified with gang affiliations aren’t residents of the Rogers Park community and have come from different areas.
“ Something is attracting them here,” Waldera said “Whether it’s a building, store or restaurant, but we are keeping our eyes on it.”
McIntosh said she became aware of the videos after her grandson shared them with her. Many people are complaining about gang activity, but don’t want to provide a solution, she said. McIntosh said she feels bad for the young men in gangs. She said most of the kids in gangs are uneducated, lack money and doesn’t value their life.
“I want to see the gang activity to go down,” McIntosh said “But I want to see a solution and provide an alternative.”
McIntosh said she wants to sponsor a program that teaches young boys how to garden.