As Chicago’s Hamlin Park, 3035 N. Hoyne Ave., prepares for an increase in visitors brought on by warmer weather and the end of the school year, a Roscoe View Journal analysis shows a decrease in reports of criminal activity near the park since the most recent shooting less than two months ago. At the same time, as police renew their call for neighbors to help rout a small but persistent gang element in the area, an RVJ investigation has uncovered numerous city contacts with the house widely considered the center of that gang presence.
For months, residents have pressured police to increase their presence near the park in the wake of continued gang and criminal activity. In February, an RVJ analysis showed 498 reports of serious non-domestic incidents in a one-block radius around the park over a five-year period beginning in 2007.
On March 16, a man identified as a former gang member was shot near North Hoyne Avenue and West Fletcher Street. No arrests have been made in that shooting, in part because the victim has refused to cooperate with investigators. However, that shooting — the third in the same area since October of 2011 — sparked groups such as the Hamlin Park Neighbors and the Hamlin Park Advisory Council to renew their calls for action.
Since then, RVJ‘s examination of Chicago Police crime reports shows a drop in reported crimes around the park. In our earlier review, reports averaged between seven and almost 10 per month; more recently, police took seven reports in February, six in March, and none in the first three weeks of April.
Neighbors and 19th District Cmdr. John Kenny cite a number of reasons for the decrease: a squad car dedicated to patrolling Hamlin Park on a regular basis; the closure on March 31 of known gang hangout INA Pantry, 2100 W. Barry Ave.; and the departure from the area of the victim in the March shooting. Cmdr. Kenny said the 19th District is now taking part in a citywide gang audit, which aims to increase information sharing between districts as officers try to shut down gangs.
That said, the center of much of the continuing gang activity is no secret to neighbors or police: a two-story frame house at 3111 N. Hoyne Ave., which property records show the current owners purchased in 1983 for $13,800. Cmdr. Kenny said his officers have been stymied by a lack of specific criminal activity linked to the house. “We’ve run the criminal histories of everyone who’s given that as their home address,” he said. But arrest and incident reports provided to RVJ by Chicago Police in response to a Freedom of Information Act request show a number of calls to the Hoyne address over the past five years, including a domestic battery case in 2008 that ultimately was dismissed.
Four days after a shooting near the Hoyne address in October 2011, officers arrested two admitted gang members at the house. A police report filed after the arrests stated that the two had repeatedly been told by a woman in the house to “vacate the primises [sic].” Two weeks later, a man living at the Hoyne address called police when someone threw a rock through the front windows. An incident report filed after that call quoted the man as saying his sons attended Alcott School, 2957 N. Hoyne Ave., and “that there might be a gang motivation involved.” Cmdr. Kenny confirmed that a juvenile living at that address had been arrested in the past, and “he seems to be the main draw” for gang activity.
Further attempts to gain entry by way of the Buildings Department have been thwarted because the home is not a rental. “If it’s a rental property, I can get inspectors to go over there,” Cmdr. Kenny said, adding that the home appears to be inhabited by the original owner, two sons and their families. However, Building Department records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that inspectors cited the home in October of 2009 for peeling interior paint and a missing chimney cap.
Cmdr. Kenny said a last resort for action may be through the assessor’s office. Property records show that the current owner has claimed a senior citizens’ tax exemption, and the county has asked her to present proof that she continues to live there. In the meantime, police encourage neighbors to continue calling in reports of potential criminal activity. “We need someone saying, ‘We have found criminal activity linked to the house,’” Cmdr. Kenny said.