Security Problems Continue for Residents

by  Assistant Editor

Crime continues to weigh on the minds of many families in the Bronzeville, Auburn Gresham and Englewood areas, where many public housing residents have relocated under the Chicago Housing Authority’s $1.6 billion Plan for Transformation. They are continuing to complain about shootings, the tainted heroin and other illegal drugs circulating in their neighborhoods, as well as the general level of criminal activity in the remaining Chicago public housing complexes and at other crime ‘hot spot’ areas.

CHA is currently paying the Chicago Police Department $16 million annually to provide “above baseline services” to residents under the Plan for Transformation. However, current and former CHA residents are still complaining about the lack of a police presence in their communities to deter crime.

Most recently, at the Aug. 9 Tenant Services meeting, Gladys McKinney, the building president of 3983 S. Lake Park and another resident of that building complained to CHA CEO Terry Peterson about the continuing cluster of non-residents standing around the building and harassing the legal tenants. They also were upset about the lack of police presence at their building. At the same meeting, residents of the Bridgeport Homes also complained about their problems with other residents who they claimed to be gang members and they asked CHA to investigate and provide police protection.

U.S. Marshals standing about during a day-long occupation of the CHA Dearborn Homes, after an earlier drug raid at the public housing site. Photo by Mary C. Johns

In May, Regina Leonard, a single mother of three who relocated out of the CHA’s Robert Taylor Homes in 2002, complained to RJ about her children not being able to go to the neighborhood grocery store in peace because of the recent shootings in her relocated area.

“My children can’t even go to the corner store,” she said during a telephone interview. “My children and I have to lie down on the floor so that we will not get shot.” Leonard, who now lives in a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-subsidized apartment in Vincennes Plaza, located at 47th Street and Vincennes Avenue, said there has been shooting every day on her block since she moved out of the Robert Taylor Homes.

“The violence is bad. It is worse here then it was in the projects. Because at least there we knew each other,” Leonard said.

Keshia Rhyme, a single young mother of five who relocated out of the Robert Taylor “A” development in 2002, claimed to have moved over three times before moving to the Auburn Gresham community, where she now lives. Rhyme told RJ recently that she was also concerned about the recent shootings on her block.

“I heard the gun shots and I heard somebody say ‘Get down,'” Rhyme said.

Earlier this year, community residents, advocates for the poor and city officials challenged the gun violence head on after a rash of recent shootings of children in the Englewood community. Fourteen-year-old honor student Starkesia Reed was shot in her head on March 3 while looking out of her window waiting for a ride to school. Eight days later, 10-year-old Siretha White was shot in the head while trying desperately to escape a hail of bullets sprayed into her aunt’s house during her surprise birthday party, not far from where Reed was killed.

Killings such as those sparked marches and demonstrations in Englewood and Auburn Gresham. Ongoing meetings have been set up to address the issues of violence and to put a stop to it. At a march and a demonstration held on Easter in Englewood, the Rev. Paul Hall attributed much of the surge in violence to the CHA Plan for Transformation.

“The problem is that the Chicago Housing Authority has emptied out their buildings and their residents are relocating into this area,” Hall told reporters at the protest. “There’s an influx of gang members coming into this area fighting for the same territory.”

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley talks about violence prevention measures after the shooting death of two unintended victims of gang violence in the Englewood community in March, along with other state and federal officials and area leaders. Photo by Mary C. Johns

Chicago Police spokesperson Pat Camden told RJ in early June that at least 25 murders involving guns occurred in the Auburn Gresham community since the beginning of this year. Camden added that as of June 7, there had been 640 aggravated batteries citywide with a firearm since the beginning of this year. As of that same date, Camden reported there being three shooting deaths in the Bronzeville community, compared to four the same time last year.

In response to a reporter’s question of whether the recent shootings in the Bronzeville, Englewood and Auburn Gresham community were because of an influx of former CHA residents into these areas, Camden replied:

“As for the shootings, we can’t really pin point that and say it is because of any one thing. As I said before, there are cases of domestic violence, gang related as well as other reasons,” he said.

In a recent RJ interview, Mark Donohue, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, gave his opinion about Chicago gangs, guns and drugs in the city’s most vulnerable communities.

RJ: What do you think should be done about the gangs, guns and drugs in the CHA communities?

MD: The reaction of the police department typically is that the police or law enforcement all over the country will address the problem by throwing more manpower at the problem.

RJ: Why are there more drugs in those communities if there is more manpower there?

MD: In large part in my perspective, the policy makers don’t want to let the police do the thing that is necessary to get rid of the drugs, guns and gangs.

RJ: What do you mean by that statement?

MD: We need to allow a police officer to use his discretion when it comes to getting these guns off of the streets.

RJ: What do you think should be done to combat the violence in those communities?

MD: I think that the necessary resources should be put in those communities, whether those resources are more police officers or job training.

Tainted heroin deaths soar
Like a deadly vulture circling its prey, tainted heroin has been causing a soaring number of deaths in Chicago lately. As of Aug. 15, there have been 180 deaths due to the tainted heroin, according to Dr. Edmund R. Donoghue, Chief Medical Examiner of Cook County. On August 15 alone, six suspected overdoses from the tainted heroin took place at the Harold Ickes public housing site, according to a CHA official who asked to be unnamed. The CHA source told RJ that eyewitnesses said the victims collapsed after being given “free $3 bags” from alleged drug dealers.

Community sources say the tainted drugs first surfaced in January. Residents that RJ interviewed in late May said they thought the tainted drug death toll had soared in the CHA public housing developments since the first reported death at the site. In a phone interview with RJ, Donoghue explained that the heroin was laced with the pain killer Fentanyl. Young and old, Black, Hispanic and white alike are dying from the deadly drug. The deaths have taken place not only here in the Windy City but around the country.

The Chicago Police Department, along with Chicago-based federal drug agents, raided the CHA Dearborn Homes development on June 23, where many tainted heroin deaths occurred. Despite the raids and the presence of the police department’s blue flickering surveillance cameras at CHA sites, the sale of tainted heroin and other illegal drugs continues.

The Chicago Police Department, along with Chicago-based federal drug agents, raided the CHA Dearborn Homes development on June 23, where many tainted heroin deaths occurred. Despite the raids and the presence of the police department’s blue flickering surveillance cameras at CHA sites, the sale of tainted heroin and other illegal drugs continues.

Deaths related to tainted heroin were reported at the Ida B. Wells public housing site as well. Joseph Watkins, a Wells resident and founder of Saving our Seeds, a non-for-profit organization which advocates on behalf of ex-felons and provide services to youths, said the circulation of tainted drugs throughout the poor and low-income communities is a conspiracy by the American government to harm poor people.

“I think that it was put in our communities intentionally,” Watkins said. “Just like when they put the crack cocaine in our communities. The saga continues. They are testing those drop dead drugs on us.”

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