Block clubs working to stop neighborhood violence

Sep. 27, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Members of these block clubs keep an eye on what's going on around their homes.

They confront people gathered on their blocks, ask questions and they call police. The block clubs are growing in number, and Chicago police say they are working.

A block in the Rosemoor neighborhood has a nickname: Mayberry, the same name as the idyllic town from "The Andy Griffith Show".

"We are so close on this block. And we are like family. And that's the way we try to keep it," said Walrea Flennoy, a Far South Side resident for more than 40 years.

So when a neighbor was shot and killed a few years ago, a block club was formed.

Residents meet once a month to discuss crime prevention and keep a phone tree in case anyone spots a shady character.

"We just come to the individuals and tell them to keep it moving," said Far South Side resident Joseph Warren, Jr. "You just don't set up shop nowhere."

"We're letting them know that people are aware of what's going on. We're sending that kind of message," said Far South Side resident Bernard Jackson.

More than 460 block clubs were registered with Chicago police last year, and the department has been working to establish hundreds more.

"With the well-organized block clubs, they almost serve in a similar way as the pod cameras do," said Chicago Police Department (CPD) Deputy Chief John Escalante. "They're not going to set up their narcotic location under a pod camera."

Though CPD has no hard data comparing crime in areas with and without block clubs, researchers say crime often goes underreported when neighbors feel isolated.

"But if i know that all of my neighbors are going to have my back on that... it's just a heck of a lot easier for us to not just deal with crime but just enforce basic things like don't litter on my lawn," said Harold Pollack, professor at the University of Chicago Crime Lab.

Back in the Rosemoor neighborhood, residents say crime has not gone away completely, but things are better than they could be.

"It's a lot better than a whole lot of neighborhoods. A lot better. And it's getting better," said Jackson.

"At one time, people were afraid to come out of the house, but it has changed," said Flennoy.

A few years ago on the same block, the city tore down an abandoned house, and neighbors came together to build a community garden. Every little effort helps when working to stop crime.

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