HYDE PARK — In recent years, Hyde Parkers have complained about large groups of teens causing trouble in the neighborhood on Halloween.
In 2016, more than 500 kids showed up on 53rd Street where paint balls were shot, eggs were thrown and fights broke out. Ten people were arrested, and since then neighbors have been working on ways to welcome the teens, but not the chaos.
Instead locking his doors, Hyde Parker Bennie Currie and his neighbors are opening up their blocks. “CollaBOOration Night” has brought together residents of 26 Hyde Park blocks as of Monday, with the goal of getting eyes and ears on the streets to deter potential vandals.
The enlisted blocks span much of the neighborhood, from 5500 S. Hyde Park Blvd. on the southeast to 4700 S. Drexel Blvd. on the northwest.
From 7 to 10 p.m., neighbors will wear orange (or their costumes, if they wish) as they keep tabs on their surroundings.
Residents have dealt with everything from exploding M-80 firecrackers to busted windshields and other property damage in recent years, Currie said.
“That’s not really the trick we want with the treats,” Currie said. “It’s been bizarre.”
He’s hoping anyone interested in causing chaos will be turned away once they see the neighborhood’s busy streets and well-lit homes.
Neighbors are explicitly asked not to confront visitors or carry weapons, and instead call 911 or other designated “block captains” if they sense something is wrong.
Beyond the quiet surveillance, the night is intended to build community amongst neighbors. Residents have committed to walking their pets, grilling hot dogs and handing out coffee and treats to passersby.
Unlike Harper Avenue’s Halloween celebrations, which Currie said partially inspired CollaBOOration Night, streets will not be closed off to traffic. The night is instead an unofficial string of yard parties and porch gatherings.
Each block has its own approach to the night, and Currie has encouraged residents to get creative with their plans to “do something positive.” He’s hoping at least 30 blocks will have signed up by Thursday night.
Currie has used social media, flyers and conversations with neighbors to raise awareness of the plans, which were borne out of community meetings with local politicians and activists to address the neighborhood’s Halloween troubles.
A Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce board member, Currie suggested “block activation” as a solution to the chaos — or more simply, getting residents out and on the streets during the night.
Currie has been joined by residents Alysia Tate, Grace Chan McKibben and Mike Allen in organizing CollaBOOration Night.
Other neighborhood groups like Teens On 53rd took charge of organizing safe spaces specifically for the kids, while the “old folks will be out on our blocks doing what we like to do,” Currie said.
This is the event’s first year, but like-minded residents of a few Bronzeville blocks already plan on replicating CollaBOOration Night in their own neighborhood, Currie said. South Shore residents have also shown interest in starting a similar program in their neighborhood.
Currie hopes to “work to make it an annual serving activity” in Hyde Park, he said.
“At the end of the day it’s going to help people. It already has enabled folks to meet new residents, make new acquaintances and maybe even start a new tradition.”
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