Uptown residents voice concerns over violence

August 18, 2009 4:31:11 AM PDT
Residents in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood confronted their alderman over concerns about violence, including a video of apparent gang fights on the streets last week. They took their concerns to a 2016 Olympic Games meeting to get answers.

It was supposed to be a meeting informing residents in Uptown about what will happen if the city gets the 2016 summer Olympic Games and how they would be affected. But it turned out to be a showdown pitting residents against police officials and community leaders.

Outside the meeting, residents held up signs expressing their concerns about safety and their disappointment with 46th Ward Alderman Helen Shiller.

"Just a month ago, I had a bullet go through my window when a rival gang member shot at a car and didn't think about where the bullet would go past the car," said Lindsey Simon, Uptown resident.

A video taken last week appears to show fighting in the streets at the intersection of Leland and Sheridan. Joe Gray says he used his camcorder to shoot the video. Then he posted it on a neighborhood Web site because he says he got no response from police or Alderman Helen Shiller. He says he even brought along some shell casings a neighbor found in the street. Watch the video at: www.uptownupdate.com/2009/08/street-fighting-at-sheridan-leland.html

"We want a safe Uptown. And we want a place where we can do things like simply walk our dogs and take our kids to school. That is all we are asking for," said Gray.

Once inside the meeting, tempers flared as residents tried to ask the alderman about what they called escalating violence in their community.

"The whole world is watching and how can you get the Olympics when you can't control violence on the streets of Chicago," said one resident.

"I continue to be concerned about eliminating it altogether to the extent possible and I hope that that would be possible. I don't think we can do that, however, unless we continue to fight it on many fronts," said Ald. Helen Schiller, 46th Ward.

Alderman Shiller says she hasn't personally responded to recent complaints because she has been on vacation but she has been in contact with her staff.

"While I've been out of town, I've been in regular communication with both police commanders here," said Shiller.

Residents followed her as she exited the meeting after a harsh exchange of words.

"This is what we get time and time again. We are sick to death of this. We want some answers form her," said Nick Dorado.

"She has definitely done a lot to make this community better," said Derrick Davis.

Alderman Shiller says crime has steadily decreased from a year ago in her ward. She says funding that was specifically targeted to fight gangs has been cut. She says it's difficult to fight crimes in her community and in every neighborhood in the city.


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