JEFFERSON PARK — Roberts Square Park neighbors are demanding more safety measures after a daytime shooting at the park over the weekend.
A man was shot about 3 p.m. Saturday at the corner of Argyle Street and Lockwood Avenue, police and witnesses said. The 24-year-old man was at the corner when someone in a car drove up to him and someone inside fired shots, hitting him in the shoulder and neck as he ran into a nearby alley, police said.
The man was taken to a nearby hospital in good condition, police said. The shooting is under investigation, and no one is in custody.
Police believe the shooting could be gang-related, though the victim had no gang affiliations detectives are aware of, according to 16th District Commander Heather Daniel.
Nadig reports the shooter asked the victim about his gang affiliation before opening fire.
At least 50 neighbors gathered Wednesday night in the park, 5230 W. Argyle St., to discuss the shooting and share safety ideas to prevent gang activity they say has plagued the block for months.
Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) was not at the meeting but sent two of his staffers. Three officers from the 16th District also attended.
Neighbors, many of whom take their kids to play at the park daily, said they want more of a police presence during peak hours, cameras at park corners, more frequent community alerts and more communication from police on what is being done to curb suspicious activity in the area, especially given the proximity to Beaubien Elementary School, 5025 N. Laramie Ave.
“I happen to be here at the park with my children on Saturday afternoon when the shooting happened, and I think it’s not right,” said Serge Michaluk, who organized the meeting. “I don’t want my children to be scared to go to the park, and I will do whatever it takes to make them feel safe [and to] rally the neighborhood. Only all together can we find solutions and make it a safe place again.”
The shooting could have stemmed from a misunderstanding related to gang issues, Daniel said. Neighbors reported witnessing drug dealing, people wearing specific colors shouting at each other and other activity they believe to be gang-related.
“The victim happened to be at the park, but it was not tied to his activities at the park,” she said. “The proximity is unfortunate, but he could have been probably four or five blocks away it might have happened. Don’t let your vision of this park change because that happened so close to it.”
Police plan to add more patrols to the park as an immediate response and encourage neighbors to report any suspicious gang activity, the commander said.
Emily Hunter, who has lived in the area for seven years and whose children go to Beaubien, organizes seasonal family-friendly events at the park. It’s become a place to build community and enjoy the neighborhood’s diversity, she said.
“It’s become such a special, special place for us and we need it to remain a safe and fun place for our families to continue to come together, and that our kids aren’t scared to go outside and play on the playground,” Hunter said.
The meeting was a first step in finding ways to collaborate with other neighborhood groups, officials and police to create a safer environment, said neighbor and organizer Eamon Byrne, who heard the shooting from the alley.
“There has been a lot of gang activity that people have noticed in the neighborhood that people have felt is unsafe,” Byrne said.
In recent months, two girls overdosed on drugs in his alley and a neighbor was recently attacked in his garage, Byrne said.
Other neighbors shared similar concerns, noting increased gang activity, drug dealing and loitering around the school building. Some neighbors argued that patrolling is not enough to curb the issue and said police have not done enough to respond.
Others suggested forming a block club watch group, which can deter gang activity, drugs and help students travel safely to and from school. Officers at the meeting welcomed the initiative, which they said can help police better understand what’s happening on particular blocks.
Neighbors who organized Wednesday’s meeting pushed for next week’s CAPS beat meeting to be held at Beaubien and handed out information for people to submit questions ahead of time to be answered at the meeting. Those who would like to submit a question can do so online before the meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The meeting was moved at the request of Gardiner following the shooting, said his staffer, Erin Lach. She encouraged constituents to also call the alderman’s office about any gang-related issues on the block.
“Public safety is a top priority for the alderman. … This neighborhood is very near and dear to him,” Lach said.
The 16th District has seen a 41 percent drop in shootings compared to this time last year, though robberies, thefts and car thefts are up, according to district data.
Park neighbors plan to report more of the recent incidents they’ve witnessed at next week’s meeting.
“We are concerned, and we have to do our part, as well,” Hunter said. “We’ve got to find ways that are going to work for us so we can work together to try and keep this area safe because ultimately that’s what we all want.”
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