Deadly Moves II

by  Editor-in-Chief

In Deadly Moves, a series of articles produced by Residents Journal and the Chicago Reporter magazine in the fall of 2004, a year long investigation found that the murder rate increased in public housing developments and areas where CHA residents had been relocated across the city under the Chicago Housing Authoritys $1.6 billion Plan for Transformation. The articles appeared simultaneously in both publications and resulted in a new police pilot program.

RJ provided details of the new police initiative to help combat crime in “Deadly Moves Update” in the November/December 2004 issue. The program called for the deployment of 120 more officers to “hot spot areas” across the city which included CHA public housing developments. Forty police officers would be deployed in locations such as Englewood, South Shore and Roseland, where CHA residents have relocated with housing vouchers. Eighty police officers were to be added to the police public housing division at eight targeted public housing sites. Police would be sent to the last occupied building at Stateway Gardens, located in the vicinity of the CPD Headquarters on the South Side; at the Robert Taylor development, where one building remains; Raymond Hilliard Homes; Harold Ickes Homes; Cabrini-Green; Dearborn Homes; Altgeld Gardens and at LeClaire Courts, a CHA City-State site located on the West Side.

After an eight-month investigation of the “hot spot” areas across the city where former CHA residents relocated, and at other CHA relocations sites, RJ found the murder rate had decreased. There were other criminal concerns, however, including an increase in crime in specific South Side neighborhoods and complaints from across the city of a spike in drug activity. And a recent report by the Chicago Police Department revealed a spike in homicides in January compared to homicides for January 2005, as well as a slight increase in the trend of other crime.

RJ talked to residents living at the eight CHA hot spot sites, and interviewed two aldermen in areas where residents relocated with housing vouchers, who had complaints about security issues and about the overall Plan for Transformation.

To get an accurate account of the murder rate, RJ also requested, under the Freedom of Information Act, CPD progress reports from the CHA, as required in their contract agreement. CHA is paying CPD $16 million annually to provide “above baseline” services to residents during the Plan for Transformation.

CHA CEO Terry Peterson has stated that the housing agency meets with the police quarterly to assess progress and that the police periodically send reports on what they’re doing. But, after months of requesting the CPD progress reports from the CHA, the housing authority denied RJ the documents. In a letter hand delivered to RJ’s offices by CHA Director of Communications Derek Hill on November 10, 2005, the request was denied because the housing authority didn’t have them to give.

“After a thorough search of our records, it has been determined that the Chicago Housing Authority is not in possession of the above referenced documents. As a result of this determination, we have to deny your request,” the letter, dated October 4, 2005, stated.

The Chicago Police Department provided RJ with the documents in mid-February which showed a slight decrease in the murder rate at CHA developments, as well as a decrease in overall crime at the public housing sites.

The CPD “Incidents and Arrests” reports at CHA locations showed that there were a total of 20 homicides in 2004 and 17 homicides in 2005, and a total of 16,247 incidents in 2004 and 14,979 in 2005.

Several Local Advisory Councils presidents and other residents at various public housing complexes in the hot spot areas agreed with the police reports on the reduction of murders and shootings at CHA sites. But a large number of residents continue to have concerns about the increase in drug activity. For example, police officials recently reported a number of suspicious overdose deaths that occurred at one of the CHA hot spots, which is also a relocation site.

In a recent community alert, the Narcotics and Gang Investigation Section of the Chicago Police Department put out a notice warning residents of the Dearborn Homes about the sale of “Dangerous Synthetic Narcotics,” that “recently has been the cause of several [fatal] overdoses in the area of the 2700-3000 blocks of South Dearborn,” according to a CPD press release.

Meanwhile, the overall trend of crime decreasing reversed in January, according to a February 17 news release by the Chicago Police Department. Crime rose 11.7 percent overall, the report said, and the homicide rate also spiked by nearly 50 percent. There were 28 homicides recorded for the first month of the year; last year, there had been 20.

Also recently, CPD Supt. Philip Cline appeared with other officers, church and community leaders to call for a zero-tolerance policy in all matters involving gang drug activity, following a gang shooting in the Grand Boulevard area in the 4300 block of South Princeton Ave., on February 22 that injured three people, including two children.

A Satisfactory Report
Deadly Moves” reported that complaints about an increase in violent crime related to the Plan for Transformation included a letter to CHA from the management company for the Near West Side mixed-income development, Westhaven Park. In it, manager Veronica Roundtree complained about the crime in the area driving away potential market rate customers. In a second letter of complaint to the CHA, in April 05, Roundtree stated that “there was some type of conflict between two gangs…that resulted in shootings near the property.”

Roundtree also expressed concerns about the Police officers detailed to the mixed-income and public housing sites.

“Whenever we bring things to their attention, it is addressed, but it is short term. CPD is not effective in that they have limitations in regards to staff and all of the officers are not effective when they are on site,” she wrote.

Roundtree told RJ last month there was a huge turnaround with the loitering of non-leaseholders, and in the gang violence – and vacancies – at Westhaven. “I can see a difference. It’s not near as bad as it was last year. It’s better. I don’t have any vacancies in the new units. I don’t have any vacancies in the affordable… Right at this moment, we are not experiencing any problems,” she said during a February interview.

Lacking Resources for Relocatees
In “Deadly Moves,” RJ reported on the influx of crime in the Englewood and South Shore areas, where public housing residents migrated upon relocation under the Plan for Transformation.

Following the article, the Chicago Police Department reported a decrease in the city’s homicide rate, and attributed it to several drug raids at CHA sites and in other areas in which they confiscated hundreds of illegal weapons.

Recently, RJ spoke to aldermen of two of the wards mentioned in the Deadly Moves series of articles, to see what affect the past and recent drug raids had on the crime in their areas. They reported continuing narcotic activity and reported a need for more police resources and social services for the former CHA residents who relocated in their areas.

Fifth Ward Concerns
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), whose ward includes parts of the 21st and 3rd police districts, recently reported persistent crime moving from CHA to her neighborhoods and not enough police resources. She reported last year “that many of the communities that have received the highest concentrations of relocated CHA residents have also seen significant increases in crime.”

Alderman Leslie Hairston Photo by Mary C. Johns

“Specifically in the 3rd and 21st districts, with gang activities, narcotics, prostitution,” she said, during a phone interview last November.

The 3rd District, which includes South Shore, has seen some of the highest concentrations of relocated former CHA residents, according to Hairston.
Hairston also said that those areas still need more police officers.

“I think they need more police…They need to be staffed at a hundred percent,” she said.

In a November 2005 report that Hairston provided to RJ in February, she stated that “As of August [2005], the 3rd District was one of only four districts in the city that saw index crime increase over the summer. The total increase of crime in the 3rd District was greater than the increases in her other three districts combined, and there was a “dramatic increase in the shootings, murders and violence along Cottage Grove, Maryland and Drexel Avenues.

“By September, the 21st District had seen a 6.7 increase in violent crime over last year,” she wrote.

Hairston said she complained to Chicago Police Superintendent Phil Cline last year about crime, which included an increase in “narcotics activity” in her ward, and demanded the CPD and other city departments “allocate additional resources” to support the needs of relocated former CHA residents in her ward. She wrote that the issue was a growing concern since she took office in 1999.

“My efforts so far have met with little success. We deserve to have enough police in our neighborhoods to keep us safe,” she wrote, in a letter dated Oct 15, 2004.

Hairston said she’s been asking CHA for help via the service Connector Program but with little result.

Sixth Ward Dilemmas
Ald. Freddrenna Lyle, (6th) recently told RJ that she also believes that recent gang violence and other criminal activities in areas of her ward were due to the CHA Plan for Transformation and that she needed additional police officers in certain parts of her ward

Alderman Freddrenna Lyle Photo by Mary C. Johns

“With the transformation of public housing, I get younger families, and that equates to more people on the streets because you’ve got younger households. Those [police] were to be disbanded into the community. We were a receiving community. We did not get additional police resources,” she said during a phone interview in February.

Lyle, who said 13 murders occurred in her ward last summer, said she complained to Cline last year about the need for more officers, but so far has gotten only “a couple extra police officers.”

Lyle’s ward has four police districts to service the residents of Englewood, Chesterfield, Roseland Heights, Park Manor and Chatlam.

“We’ve never had 13 murders between 71st street, 79th Street, State Street and Cottage Grove. And so, we needed some additional police help,” she exclaimed.

Lyle, whohas barely any recreational or other social services in her area and “still scuffling,meeting with the Community Trust with MacArthur trying to get them to fund some programs…to keep these young people off these corners” said she needs help.

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