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Gun Shots Dampen Spirits of Anti-Crime Neighborhood Group in Uptown

Despite “positive loitering” efforts by Uptown community members near the corner of Lawrence Avenue and Sheridan Road a week ago Friday, shots were fired there two days later, making some question the success of the anti-crime strategy.

The Uptown Chicago Commission, a community organization that strives to improve the quality of life in Uptown, has been sponsoring positive loitering at the corner of Leland Avenue and Sheridan Road since mid-August. About 20 residents—and their dogs—have gathered for about an hour for the past eleven Fridays as a counter attack to the behavior of those suspected of criminal activity such as drug sales and gang-related meetings.

Richard Thale, the public safety chairman of the Uptown Chicago Commission and event organizer, said it was disheartening that the shooting occurred, but he has kept a good attitude towards the group’s cause. He said the group is still working hard to create a positive influence in the area.

“It gets very frustrating, but at least I know we have made some effort,” he said. “I know when we’re out there, things are calm. I’m not telling anyone that we are stopping crime, but we are having an impact.”

Denice Davis, chief of staff to Ald. Helen Shiller (46th), said the group’s efforts are being noticed, but positive loitering alone won’t cause crime and violence in the neighborhood to leave for good.

“I think we should do whatever we need to do to make it a better place,” Davis said. “But in the ’hood, all they’re doing is watching those people out there, sit and stand there. Then an hour later, they’re going to show back up there.”

Kathleen Boehmer, the 23rd District police commander, said the police have apprehended the four men who fired the shots, with no one getting injured during the incident. The commander, however, could provide no further details.

Yet she said that positive loitering is great for the community, and police are fully supporting the community cause.

“It’s picking up steam and people are coming out and still showing interest in the community,” said Boehmer who also supports other loitering events in Edgewater and Lakeview. “But we don’t expect the positive loitering to solve all the problems at once.”

Uptown, the commander said, is a Level 2 zoning district. Because of that, she said more police will be patrolling the area because of higher crime rates and heightened gang activity.

Emmett L. Bradbury III, chairman of the Criminal Justice Department at Chicago State University, said to improve a neighborhood, you must be visible for all to see.

“People who commit crimes and loiter in a negative way typically don’t want to be seen,” Bradbury said. “So you turn the light on them. One way of doing it is through positive loitering, you’re out about and you’re looking, you’re seeing, and consequently those who would do criminal things or simply things that are disgusting or unacceptable won’t do it.”

Uptown resident Amy Levin said the shootings are not going to stop overnight, but neighbors need to work together to stop the violence over a longer period of time.

“This is a long process,” Levin said. “It took a long time for this stuff to get embedded into the neighborhood. And I’m under no delusion that it’s going to be a quick fix to try and change it.”

Boehmer said the community has improved because of the efforts like the commission’s loitering cause.

“The community has come a long way over the years,” she said. “Positive loitering is not the final solution to all the problems but a new beginning to help the community solve problems.”

Posted by on December 1, 2009. Filed under Community, Editor's Choice, Today's Talk. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.