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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

"A Tough, Tough Weekend"

That's what Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan had to say about all the shooting going on last weekend, some of which took place here in Back of the Yards. This Chicago Tribune story mentioned three local victims:

Jose Garcia, 18, shot in the chest while sitting in a parked car on the 4900 block of South Hoyne on Saturday night.

Two other neighborhood young people who were wounded: a 14-year-old who goes to school at Hamline and a 16-year-old student at Richards.

I'm not sure about the ones that didn't make the news, but if I understood correctly, there was a collection at church on Sunday to send the body of another slain youngster back to Mexico. I thought this kid was killed by a speeding police car, but I'm not sure I understood everything correctly during announcements.

UPDATED March 6: The young man being chased by the police was captured but not killed. The collection at church was for Jose Garcia's body to be sent to Mexico for burial.

Someone I spoke with today counted five shootings here in the area in recent days, including his own very young cousin, who was injured by bullets going through a car window. It sounds like he will be OK.

Between conversations with NHS board members, folks at Holy Cross and staff at Big Picture, here's what I've learned about why this is happening. Essentially, one gang whose territory lies east of Ashland is feeling the heat from the three or four other gangs surrounding them. I heard today that four or five of the east of Ashland gang's members have been killed in the last five months or so.

"They're getting that 18th street mentality now--kill or be killed," said one of my sources. I am not sure the extent to which that is from networking or because guys from 18th Street are physically moving down here--we are getting folks who have been displaced by rising rents and property taxes in Pilsen. While I have raved in previous posts about the great new neighbors I'm getting thanks to displacement, perhaps others haven't been so lucky.

At any rate, the beleaguered gang is out for revenge. On Sunday night about 7 p.m., I walked past five or six police cars in about three blocks, starting at 48th and Ashland. The sirens went on for hours afterwards.

Some neighborhood observers are already betting it will be a long, deadly summer.

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