Troubling Development Update

by  Assistant Editor

Dearborn Homes; New Crack City?
Dearborn Homes are becoming like New Jack City,” said Joyce Van Allen, a long time resident of the development, in an interview in January, 2006.

“More like New Crack City,” Louisa Samuel, a relocated resident from Robert Taylor, said as she was visiting Van Allen’s apartment from next door. The residents reported a decrease in violent crime and an increased police presence but complained about a sharp rise in the drug dealing taking place on the property.

“Last year, we had no protection down here,” Van Allen told RJ, “but this year the police presence has increased.”

Van Allen is a grandmother that lives with her four grandchildren, her daughter (who works for UPS), along with her disabled son. All seven of them are in a three bedroom apartment that has numerous crates as well as cardboard boxes crowded into the living room and stacks of old newspaper with little walking room. Van Allen has been a resident at Dearborn Homes for more than 30 years.

“In these 30 years, I have seen this place go from bad to worse,” Van Allen continued. Recently, however, shootings have been on the decline, she said.

“This year, shooting so far has decreased, maybe because it is winter,” Van Allen said in a phone interview. “When it gets hot outside, that’s when the killing starts.”

Meanwhile, police shut down a drug market at Dearborn Homes in January, and 20 people were charged in that raid, the result of a four-month investigation.

Van Allen also pointed to recent reports of tainted heroin leading to deaths at and around the development as a possible reason for the increased police presence.

“Drug addicts have been dropping like flies that have been sprayed with a can of Raid, so that is mainly why the police presence has increased,” Van Allen added.

The drug-related deaths have included Latinos and whites as well as African Americans. Many of the residents said that the number of drug-related deaths behind this toxic heroin scare is much more than what the police reports are saying.

Some undercover Chicago police officers search a man in the CHA Dearborn Homes in early February, following a number of suspected tainted heroin drug overdose deaths at the public housing site. Photo by Mary C. Johns

Even with the police presence, gang and drug activity continued to flourish, Van Allen said.

“I still fear for my grandchildren lives concerning gangs,” Van Allen said.

“The gangs were chasing and trying to recruit my 15-year-old grandson, and it is leaving me stressed out and sick behind it.”

According to many of the residents, there are numerous mid-rises that are drug havens.

Some of the addresses mentioned include 2910 and 2930 South Dearborn Street, 2931 South Federal Street and 2940 South State Street.

Michelle Lawson, 20, described living in the development as a place that is making her and her son sick – literally – along with the presence of gangs and drugs.

“My son has asthma, and there are not only gangs and drugs down here but so are mold and mildew in my apartment,” Lawson added.

“My son had to keep running to the hospital for 9 months because of the condition down here,” Lawson continued sounding rather stressed out in a recent interview.

RJ talked to Chicago Police Department spokesperson Pat Camden about the Dearborn Homes situation.

In 2003 there were five homicides and zero in 2004. In 2005, there were three killings in the Dearborn Homes, Camden said.

Gray fog clouds hang over Leclaire Courts
No more dark clouds over Leclaire Courts there are instead only police cameras. All last year, bullets were flying instead of birds in the Leclaire Courts housing development on the far West Side. This year seems to be the opposite.

Now residents are telling RJ that the violence has slowed down to a drip. Unlike other developments, though, they do not report an increased police presence. In fact, Local Advisory Council President Natalie Saffold reports a decrease in police.

“The only problem that we are having here in Leclaire Courts is that we haven’t been seeing our normal beat car passing through the development,” Saffold said.

“Otherwise Leclaire Courts has been a little quiet,” Saffold continued. “Well, when it comes to police we haven’t been seeing our beat car riding through here, so we are trying to get a meeting with the commander concerning that!”

Saffold noted that there was an additional police presence in the form of a security camera. “There’s a camera in our community now and we are expecting one more,” Saffold went on to say.

Ruth Todd, a long time resident and a former LAC president, agreed with Saffold.

“Like Natalie said, it has been kind of quiet in the development, all except for a few break-ins,” Todd said. Like other developments, however, there’s no lack of drug dealing there, she added.

“At least there have been no more killings so far, just a lot of drug selling. That’s all,” Todd said.

Ida B. Wells Melting Pot
Ida B.Wells is one of the first Chicago Housing Authority public housing developments ever built in Chicago. It was constructed in the early 1940s and included row houses as well as high rises. Once considered among the best housing available on the South Side, Wells has long shared the negative reputation of many other public housing developments.

RJ interviewed Wells resident Tyrone Rone in February to see how conditions were in the last year. Rone complained about what he sees as an increase in the drug trade but said, in other respects, conditions had improved in Wells.

“I lived in Ida B. Wells all my life and now it is worse then ever before. It is drug infested,” Rone, 32, said. “One thing I can say about it now is that there have been less killings then previous years. I see more of a police presence in the development but that still hasn’t stopped the drug selling.

“It’s too bad; when the development was full, you didn’t see that many police officers. Now there are less people and more cops,” Rone added.

Even after a recent, high-profile city police sting operation called “Sin City,” where numerous alleged drug dealers as well as alleged gang members were nabbed, there still is a lot of traffic, residents said. Wells is another development where a police camera has been added to the site but residents reported that drug dealing continued, even under its watchful eye.

Harold Ickes Homes Troubles
When LAC President Gloria Williams attended the November 2005 tenant services meeting, she laid out in detail what seemed to be a common theme in the developments: the scourge of gang and drug activity is unabated and growing.

“It’s a melting pot down there. Every drug dealer in Chicago came down in Ickes. There are 11 buildings and every building has a dope house and addicts from all over come down in Ickes. Just drive by. They’re standing out in the open where you can see them,” Williams, told CHA CEO Terry Peterson and others during a resident meeting in November 2005.

Williams seemed to think the violence that occurred at her development in 2005 was due to other residents relocating into her public housing complex from other CHA locations without the provision of social aid.

“I want to tell everybody something that doesn’t reach the newspapers. A kid got shot in my development last night. My development was locked down. But this is only a pimple on a mole head at what’s going on at Ickes.

“I have said it over and over again. Mr. Peterson, y’all [CHA] put all of those people down in Ickes and didn’t give us any social help. And we still haven’t gotten any. When are you going to give us some help? When you put all of those people down there, Mr. Peterson, you endangered everybody else’s life. We had our problems to begin with. But when you start sending people who couldn’t live anywhere else but in public housing, you endangered every kid’s life in there. It is so bad that in the morning, when the kids go to school, they stop selling for 15 minutes. In the evening when they get out at 2:30 p.m., they shut down for a half and hour. They even recognized their problem in the community. I’m getting tired of hearing myself say it. But if I stop talking, ain’t nobody gonna ever do anything with the situation down there,” Williams said.

Dwaine Bailey, CHA chief of operations, told Williams that he and others met with CPD officials and that police officers would start coming to the Tenants’ Services Meetings to meet and discuss residents’ concerns.

LeClaire Courts LAC President Natalie Saffold discusses crime and other issues at the CHA hot spot site, as Ald. Michael Zalewski, (second from right), and other CHA and City officials listen at the Townhall meeting in June 2005. Photo by Mary C. Johns

“I think we all have to work with them and unfortunately, sometimes it takes some time for them to do what they have to do to get the bad guys,” Bailey said.

Later that day, police raided Ickes.

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