By Victoria Gonzalez and Kate Perschke
On June 27, the city was on high alert when a 17-year-old boy had been shot and killed in the Rogers Park neighborhood.
Quintin Brown was tragically murdered on a Thursday afternoon when he was standing near the 6900 block of North Glenwood Avenue. Earlier that day, a 33-year-old unnamed man was shot during an attempted robbery on the 2800 block of West Devon Avenue. The victim was later admitted to Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston and was in stable condition, the perpetrator was not caught or identified.
A burst in crime has brought Rogers Park back to the forefront of the larger conversation being had about the abundant gun violence taking place in the city of Chicago, even though recent data released by the Chicago Police Department suggests that crime has been down in the Rogers Park neighborhood.
According to the FBI’s uniform crime reports, which was analyzed by Area Vibes (an independent neighborhood ratings site), Rogers Park’s overall crime rate is 22% higher than the national average, and residents have a 1 in 30 chance of being a victim of property, violent or other crimes.
“Twenty-two percent seems like a lot but I really don’t feel like crime is decreasing in the area, I just feel like its very steady, it’s not more serious and it’s not getting worse, but it is sort of plateauing I would say,” said Margaret Malinowski, a resident of the Rogers Park area.
University of Illinois at Chicago professor of Criminal Law and Justice, William Patrick McCarty, commented on these numbers from the FBI: “It doesn’t shock me that Rogers Park… [has] rates higher than the national average, because when you think about it there are a lot more smaller places than bigger places…so while Rogers Park is 22% higher than the [national] average, overall that is skewed because there are so many small places… with minuscule rates of crime.”
McCarty, well versed in Chicago crime, followed up by saying, “I don’t think it’s necessarily meaning that Rogers Park is dangerous,” saying the numbers are skewed because of concentration of people when discussing the national average of crime. McCarty added, “I never want to minimize the effect of crime… because still there’s five-six-hundred murders in Chicago, for example, every year and that’s a tremendous loss of life.”
The communities of Rogers Park and West Rogers Park are often regarded as a hub of a unique blend of cultures. Home to Loyola University Chicago, Rogers Park attracts young, college students. Devon Avenue offers a beautiful array of Indian and Pakistani cuisine. West Rogers Park is home to a majority of the city’s Orthodox Jewish community.
Amy Hernandez is a former employee of the Bernard Horwich Jewish Community Center located at the intersection of Touhy Avenue and Pratt Avenue in West Rogers Park. She discussed the strong ties within the community.
“There was a feeling of safety in the community that I worked, it was a close-knit area and the families all knew each other,” Hernandez said.
She also explained how she never felt unsafe, but would take the necessary precautions of “[making] sure my car was locked and … [letting] someone know when I was on my way home or on my way to my car so they would know if something happened.”
After the 2018 serial killings of Douglas Watts, 73, and Elliyahu Moscowitz, 24, the Rogers Park community and the city of Chicago as a whole were shaken. One year later, the killer is still at large.
Madison Savedra, a reporter who covers the crime beat for Loyola’s student paper the Loyola Phoenix, said students on her campus have mixed feelings about safety.
“As far as students, it comes in waves,” she said. “If there is a serious crime off campus then everyone gets a little weary or on edge about safety. Last October, a lot of students said they were scared about walking around the neighborhood because of the shooting that happened in the middle of the day.”
With the crime statistics that Rogers Park has been seeing as of late, some students and residents say they need to take extra precautions.
“I have a policy of going places in pairs, staying on streets that are pretty well lit, I have a bunch of roommates so I try to employ the buddy system and travel together with them,” Savedra said. “Around the time of the Rogers Park killer, there was a Facebook group created called Roam RoPo to promote students traveling together.”
The headlines and news reports regarding what came to be known as “The Rogers Park Killer” kept the city on its toes. As seen in the Google Trends analysis of the search term “Rogers Park Killer,” Chicago residents were vigilant and interested in what was going on with the case, Google searching the term frequently and more so on days that the case made local headlines.
MAP: Rogers Park Firearm Crimes 2019: Violence and crime in general have been rampant in the area, as seen in the Google MyMaps above, which maps out crime activity over the past year in Rogers Park.
The Facebook group, Roam RoPo, short for Rogers Park, is one of the many efforts made by Loyola students and the university to promote personal safety. The university provides many safety services, with programs such as a late-night bus ride akin to Uber and a safety walk program that lets students call for company on the walk home. The most prominent of campus safety features is the Blue Light System.
Blue emergency call systems act as a beacon of safety for Loyola students, providing a direct intercom to Campus Safety police. The blue lights shine throughout campus, from the lake to the Red Line Loyola stop, to the library and in front of the residence halls.
Savedra commented on the effectiveness of the safety measures campus provides, saying, “As far as what campus safety does, they are transparent about the crime and danger on campus and provide resources for students. But in the past the Phoenix has reported on where they can improve…” However, the general consensus of students is to take additional personal safety steps to protect themselves on and around campus.
On the other hand, some residents say they don’t see the need to take extra steps because the statistics and headlines are all too familiar. But they are noticing small things changing in their community.
“I haven’t felt the need to, I mean when an area has had those stats for a significant period of time there’s just a way that it functions right?” Malinowski said. “But there have been things that have changed, a security camera was put up on my street for no specific or current reason, meaning no serious crime has taken place right there in that spot, but it was still put up.”
“The people who used to sell fruit outside of my apartment have been moved, it was a small fruit stand run by two people who I’m sure had a license, and they were moved after a period of time for no apparent reason. There hasn’t been an increase in police activity, but there have been more subtle things like that happening,” Malinowski explained.
With crime and violence in the neighborhood, residents say they think more needs to be done because what is currently being implemented is not addressing the important issues.
“There’s a cop that sits outside the elementary school, right across the street from the train station,” Malinowski said. “They focus far more on the El than they do on the elementary school, and that’s pretty much a good look at what’s happening in my area. It’s definitely a concern of things that are much more bureaucratic, like fare hopping, rather than watching out for elementary school students.”