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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

West Siders Blame Open-Air Drug Market, Lack Of Jobs After Another Mass Shooting Leaves 5 Wounded

Gun violence has risen sharply since the beginning of the pandemic. West Siders say the wave of crime will only end when young people have access to jobs, resources and programs.

The business corridor at Madison and Pulaski in the West Garfield Park neighborhood on April 29, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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WEST GARFIELD PARK — Five people were wounded Tuesday night in a shooting in West Garfield Park — the second mass shooting that day in Chicago.

The shooting happened about 9:20 p.m. in the 3800 block of West Monroe Street, near the main commercial corridor of West Garfield Park. The victims — one woman and four men — were outside when one person or multiple people shot them. Detectives are investigating, but no one is in custody, police said.

“I feel and I hurt for the people involved. But this is nothing new. It’s a different scenario, but it’s the same type of tragedy that occurs in the community. And, unfortunately, it’s something that’s going to continue until something changes,” said Rev. DeWayne Davis from New Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church.

The community has called for an end to the violence for at least 40 years, Davis said, but gun crimes have worsened in recent years.

Residents reacted to the shooting with frustration that more has not been done to control violence in the area. Just blocks away from where the shooting occurred is an open-air drug market that residents say has allowed crime to flourish nearby.

“I could look out my door right now and there’s three or four guys who sell drugs every single day. And the police sit in the middle of the street and watch these guys and don’t do anything,” said Litonya Patton, a longtime resident who runs a hair business in the neighborhood.

There have been at least 45 shootings this past month in the 11th District, the police district where the shooting happened. That’s an increase of 36 percent over the same period last year, according to police records.

There have been 14 murders in the 11th District within the past month, a 56 percent increase over the same period of time last year, records show.

As a business owner, Patton tries to keep drug dealers from loitering outside and tells them to leave or calls the police when trouble arises. More residents and business owners need to take a stand to keep their community safe, Patton said, but there’s little support for those who want to stop the violence.

“A couple of those people who were shot were friends of mine. We can’t even hang out and be in our own neighborhood without a shooting,” she said. “I wish it was something that we could do as a community to stop all of this.”

The neighborhood needs more resources, jobs and programs to keep young people out of trouble and give them better options than hanging out in the streets, Patton said.

“We need more resources in our community. It’s nothing over here on the West Side for the younger teens to do. The only thing they have is to hang on the block and sell drugs and get drunk,” she said.

Poverty and joblessness are exacerbating the violence happening in West Garfield Park, said Michael Rembert, manager of the nearby MP Mall at 3973 W. Madison St. If young people had better opportunities to earn an income, they’d be less likely to participate in crime and gangs, he said.

“You need to give the kids options to have jobs. They want money; that’s why they’re on the corner. Get them a decent-paying job and a lot of them will leave the corners,” he said.

Police have been ineffective in controlling crime in the area and aren’t a deterrent for the more serious crimes that happen, Rembert said. When he calls the police to report a crime, “they tell me there’s nothing they can do about it,” he said.

“It kills the businesses. You got people who are scared to come up here because of the narcotics sales,” Rembert said.

Can A Surge In Investment Help?

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A police barricade lays next to the vacant lot at 4008 W. Madison St. in the West Garfield Park neighborhood on April 29, 2021.

Despite the sharp increase in crime and gun violence during the pandemic, the West Side is also seeing a surge in resources and investment that can address the root cause of those issues, said Teny Gross, executive director for the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago. Outreach workers for the organization responded to the mass shooting Tuesday to prevent retaliation and support victims, he said.

A tremendous amount of collaboration is happening on the West Side between street outreach workers, victims services groups, mental health providers, housing groups and drug treatment programs to “turn the tide on 60 years of disinvestment,” Gross said.

“It’s gonna take time, but those are really encouraging signs,” Gross said. “All those organizations are starting to coordinate in a substantial way. You really cannot change the city unless you do that and really have the civilian infrastructure.”

Several investments in West Garfield Park are set to bring young people resources and opportunities that will give them a reason to get off the streets and “deal with some of the hopelessness” they are struggling with, Gross said. The renovated Legler Regional Library, the playground at Melody School and the forthcoming roller rink and community plaza are all things that can help make long-term improvements to public safety, Gross said.

“I want the kids here to have the same think kids have in the Gold Coast. They deserve it. We have a lot of Einsteins we might be locking up because we’re disinvested,” Gross said.

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