Publishers’ Introduction: Deadly Moves

by  and Alysia Tate, Publisher of The Chicago Reporter

A plan intended to transform the lives of public housing residents has also transformed the city’s illegal drug market — often with deadly results.

The stories in this issue document that connection. They are the products of a year-long partnership between the Residents’ Journal and The Chicago Reporter, a 32-year-old investigative magazine which keeps leaders and concerned citizens informed about the ways race and poverty shape our region’s key issues.

Funded in part by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, our publications have teamed up to scrutinize the relationship between the city’s homicide rate and the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation – a massive effort to demolish most of the city’s public housing buildings and replace them, eventually, with mixed-income neighborhoods.

Chicago claimed the highest number of murders of any city nationwide in 2003. Overwhelmingly, these crimes are committed in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. Some of these areas are those to which residents of public housing are being relocated under the plan.

Our reporters discovered that the number of murders rose in several of these neighborhoods from the time the plan was launched in 1999 through the end of 2003. Our reporters found that shooting deaths increased significantly in public housing developments even as the buildings closed. Through interviews and hard research, they documented how street gangs move to other parts of town as those buildings close, and how violence often erupts as a result of competition over turf for drug sales.

These articles chart the parallel relocation of two populations. They tell the stories of relocated public housing residents who are seeking shelter and other basic services. They detail the experiences of gang members who are seeking new turf, new markets and new customers. Both groups are moving into the remaining low-income areas of the city. These areas – including the Englewood, Roseland and South Shore neighborhoods – are bearing the brunt of the relocation. These reports do not challenge the honorable intentions of the Plan for Transformation. But we stand by the importance of examining the plan as it is implemented. Our joint expertise includes those who have lived in low-income neighborhoods as well as those who have documented the issues in these communities through in-depth, investigative reporting. We invite comments from all of our readers on these stories and encourage you to join our publications as we work to disseminate them more widely.

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Categories: Investigative Reporting Uncategorized