Chicago police say a new appearance of gang graffiti around the pool deck at Hamlin Park, 3035 N. Hoyne Ave., is likely designed to “taunt” rivals, leading some neighbors to fear an escalation in violence around the park.
Neighbors say the latest example of “tagging” appeared after midnight on Sunday on the outside of the wall below the Hamlin Park pool deck. Pictures provided to Roscoe View Journal show symbols consistent with the markings of the Maniac Latin Disciples, which sources have described as the second-largest Latino gang in the city. Similar tags showed up on the same wall the previous weekend; they were painted over almost immediately at the direction of Hamlin Park’s new supervisor, Rich Blake.
Colleen Leahy has lived near Hamlin Park since the late 1970s and is part of the resurgent Hamlin Park Neighbors group reconstituted last fall in response to outbreaks of nearby gang violence. She said the appearance of this graffiti is disconcerting, especially since gang-related crime near the park was on the decline since a shooting March 17 at Hoyne and Fletcher.
“We know that they were here, but they were quiet. Now that it’s nice and warm, they’re back out,” Leahy said. In addition, she said neighbors are concerned that the tagging represents a method of recruiting students from nearby Alcott High School for the Humanities, 2957 N. Hoyne Ave., or marks an attempt to claim the park from the gang long identified with the neighborhood, the Insane Deuces.
In an email to RVJ, 19th District Cmdr. John Kenny said the Disciples are actually “taunting the [Deuces] by saying [they] walked right into the park and got away with tagging in their backyard.” Cmdr. Kenny said most of the gang activity has been centered near Belmont and Kedzie, which is outside the boundaries of the 19th District. Noting that last weekend was the Puerto Rican Festival in Humboldt Park, he said he plans to check with the police department’s Gangs unit to see if they’ve experienced an increase in activity from either gang.
Leahy acknowledged that in the middle of an especially violent month on the south and west sides of Chicago, “it seems silly to complain … but we think if we don’t do something immediately, it’s going to get worse. We don’t want it to be another long, hot summer.”