Cops targeted Chicago’s most violent ‘beat.’ So crime moved next door.
July 21, 2017
Niaire Jones, 18 months, sits on the front porch with grandmother Mary Fields, 59, at their home in the 1300 block of South Lawndale. Fields suffered a graze wound to the forehead when someone opened fire outside their home on May 18. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times
Since 59-year-old Mary Fields got shot earlier this year outside her North Lawndale home, her family doesn’t come by much anymore to visit. It’s too dangerous.
Fields lives with her two daughters and two young grandchildren in an apartment in the 1300 block of South Lawndale in the West Side neighborhood. One day in May, she was making breakfast and “heard a lot of commotion on the front porch.”
She’d asked the young men in her neighborhood before not to sit on her porch. But about a half dozen of them — “known gang members” — were there anyway when she came outside.
One of them “said a little thing to me,” Fields says, and her 25-year-old daughter walked out to join her.
Just then, a car pulled up. Someone inside started shooting at the group on her porch, according to the police.
One of the bullets grazed Fields’ forehead.
Her 18-year-old nephew, who was visiting and standing outside, also was shot and wounded.
Shots tore through the windows of her apartment. Inside, there are still has bullet holes in the walls. She says her landlord won’t make repairs.
Mary Fields shows a bullet hole in her living room wall from a shooting outside her home in May | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times
Fields has chronic asthma and says the shooting touched off an asthma attack. Plus, her blood pressure “shot up sky high.” She spent three days at Mount Sinai Hospital.
“I’m trying to move out of this area because I’m scared to be here,” she says. “These people — they kill people.”
Since the shooting, which came during the most violent 18-month stretch Chicago has seen in years, the stress of what happened and where she lives has pushed her to see a psychiatrist.
Mary Fields was left with a scar on her forehead from being grazed by a gunshot: “It’s miserable that I have to live like this.”
Fields wishes she could afford to move some place else, like Berwyn or Oak Park.
“It’s miserable that I have to live like this,” she says.
The shootings of Fields and her nephew were among more than two dozen in the first six months of 2017 in what the Chicago Police Department has designated Beat 1011 in the Ogden District. That was the most gun violence in any of the department’s 303 beats between January and June, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of police data has found.
Beat 1011 — an area of just .45 of a square mile — takes the crown of most dangerous police beat in Chicago from neighboring, slightly larger Beat 1133, just on the other side of dividing line Roosevelt Road. Beat 1133, in the department’s Harrison District, held the unwanted title for 2016.
So the police took steps to address that. They put in place or expanded technology-based initiatives to fight the violence north of Roosevelt Road — including ShotSpotter gunshot sensors and what they call Strategic Decision Support Centers. These allow analysts from the police department and the University of Chicago Crime Lab review gunfire data and better target where officers need to be deployed.
And when they did all of that, the shooting shifted to the other side of Roosevelt Road, the Sun-Times analysis found. The number of shootings has dropped dramatically in Beat 1133, records show. At the same time, the toll of shootings has surged in Beat 1011 next door.
It’s not necessarily the same people doing the shooting, says Andrew Papachristos, a Yale University professor and Chicago native who did a 2012 study on the effects of “hotspots policing.” He concluded that it’s likely that “focusing police efforts on high-activity crime places does not inevitably lead to crime displacement, and crime-control benefits may diffuse into the areas immediately surrounding the targeted locations.”
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson: “When we’re fighting crime, sometimes we do push it in other places. So if we do that, then we have to address.” | Sun-Times files
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson sees it differently.
“Just think about when you squeeze a balloon on one end and then it blows up at the other end,” says Johnson. “When we’re fighting crime, sometimes we do push it in other places. So if we do that, then we have to address it.
“I am fully confident that once we get all the technology in place in the [Ogden] District, along with the personnel, then we’ll see the reduction over there also.”
The addition of new technologies aimed at tamping down violence comes as 780 people were killed in Chicago last year, making it the most violent year the city had seen since the mid-1990s. From January through June last year, 329 people were killed.
The city is slightly ahead of that pace this year. In the first six months of 2017, 333 people were killed citywide.
During that time, there were 10 killings and 19 nonfatal shootings in Beat 1011, which is bounded by Roosevelt Road, 15th Street, Central Park Avenue and the railroad tracks just west of Kilbourn Avenue.
That was up from two killings and 12 nonfatal shootings last year — and it’s more killings in six months than Beat 1011 has had in any entire year going back to 2001, according to police data. Until now, it hadn’t had more than seven murders in a full year in that time, records show.
Two of this year’s murders have resulted in arrests, as of July 19.
By comparison, Beat 1133 dropped from six killings and 25 nonfatal shootings between January and June 2016 to two killings and 11 nonfatal shootings in the same period this year.
As Johnson points out, one key difference between the two police beats is this: Beat 1011 hasn’t been equipped yet with the technological crime-fighting tools that have been deployed in Beat 1133 and the rest of the neighboring Harrison District. But police officials say it’s slated to be “fully online” by September.
So far, beside the Harrison District, the Englewood and Austin districts also have been equipped with ShotSpotter and Strategic Decision Support Centers. As with the Ogden District, which also includes Little Village, the Gresham District on the South Side will get ShotSpotter and the support centers in the coming months, according to police officials.
The Sun-Times analysis found that most of the shootings in Beat 1011 happened near the intersections of Roosevelt and Avers and of 13th Street and Lawndale, where Fields and her nephew were shot.
Greater Galilee Missionary Baptist Church is situated between those two intersections. The Rev. Steve Spiller Sr. has been a part of the flock his entire life — he turned 58 on Wednesday — and has been pastor there for the past 22 years.
“It’s disturbing, it’s sad, it’s disgusting,” the Rev. Steve Spiller, pastor of the Greater Galilee Baptist Church, 1308 S. Independence Blvd., says of his neighborhood’s violence. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times
Spiller says he and the leaders of other neighborhood churches are trying to set up block clubs to try to help stabilize the community “one block at a time.”
“It’s disturbing, it’s sad, it’s disgusting,” Spiller says of the violence. “We’re tired of it.”
Johnson says the police department’s efforts have had some promising results in recent months. But the superintendent acknowledges the police need to do more to forge partnerships here and in all of Chicago’s African American and Hispanic communities.
“You don’t erase decades of inappropriate treatment in a year,” Johnson says. “You just don’t. Doing this for almost 30 years now, I know CPD can’t do this alone. It’s just imperative that the community is a part of the reduction-in-the-crime fight. We have to be a partner with the community. We have to do that if we have any thoughts of reducing this violence.”
Spiller says he doesn’t expect much help from the city.
“We’re not expecting anybody else to come from outside of our neighborhoods to do anything because they’re not gonna do that,” the pastor says. “I mean, let’s just keep it real. They’re not gonna do it.
“They come around election time. Everybody wants to help then.”
Spiller says too many adults aren’t taking responsibility for their children’s actions: “There’s no accountability at home. There’s no direction. There’s no discipline.
“That’s a major, major issue because the young people that we’re dealing with now are not churched. They didn’t come up in the church like I did. But they’re crying out for help.”
He says he and other faith leaders are trying to figure out what services they could provide that might help them attract people.
“First, we’ve got to develop a relationship with them to compel them to want to come,” Spiller says. “It’s a struggle. And we ain’t goin’ nowhere. We ain’t goin’ nowhere, so it’s gonna have to get better.”