Red Eye story on Logan Square
Thought this story was interesting as there are parallels with Uptown and many ohter neighborhoods
The two sides of Logan Square
In the neighborhood, east enjoys prosperity while west battles violent crimePublished January 10 2008On a sidewalk near the home of 15-year-old Leonardo Otero, a makeshift memorial contains candles, a new football, red roses, stuffed animals and a Puerto Rican flag-a solemn reminder of the violence that seems to have engulfed the west side of Logan Square, where four people have been murdered in just over a week. Otero was shot to death Monday night.
And while artists eat tofu scrambles, joggers wear iPods and dog walkers escort small dogs past million-dollar homes in the eastern area of the Northwest Side neighborhood, some residents have grown accustomed to problems in the western portion, where gang-infested zones plague residents.
Soren Wittrup was watching a movie with his father the evening of Jan. 1 when, he said, six bangs rang out across the street. What Wittrup at first thought were New Year's fireworks turned out to be gunshots.
Martha Ortega, 43, and Jose Bravo, 27, died shortly after being shot in the apartment in the 2400 block of North Monticello Avenue. A few days later, Jose Soberanis-Radilla, 36, died from his wounds. A 28-year-old man also was critically injured. Police have charged a 24-year-old man in the deaths that they said Monday were drug related.
Neighbors said they had called police a number of times with complaints about activities at the apartment house, including cars pulling up to accept packages, fights and noise from people hanging around outside. In the alley behind the building, gang graffiti is sprayed on a white garage door, as it is on several garages across the street.
"I can't say I'm surprised something happened," said Wittrup, 43, who has lived on the street for seven years. "That house has a record a mile long."
"Everyone in this street has called [the police] on that house," he said.
But others defended the block, saying it is unfair to define the block by statistics alone. "Some of the young guys have rivals, but I live here and it's nice and quiet," said Vicente Romero, who owns a building on the block. "Sometimes I show up at 2 or 3 a.m., and I park my car and walk in with no problem."
On Monday, Otero became the youngest victim of the recent violence when he was gunned down in a drive-by near the corner of Springfield Avenue and George Street as he walked with his younger brother and cousin just three blocks from his home.
He lay dying in his brother's arms as they waited for an ambulance to arrive.
"This white mini-van just crept up and started shooting," said his brother, Adrian Otero, 14, standing Tuesday near the memorial erected by the family at the site of the shooting. "We started running."
Chicago police say that in the western portion of Logan Square, gang-infested zones have become a more startling contrast for poorer residents. As wealthier people buy homes to the east, tax bases rise, making rent increasingly hard for many low-income families to remain. Some move to the west, where the rent is cheaper.
As a result, Chicago police say, this gentrification has pushed more gangs-and related violence-westward. Ald. Ray Colon (35th) acknowledges that there are problems.
"I continue to have challenges with the western area," said Colon, a lifelong resident serving his second term, which covers much of the neighborhood.
But overall, the neighborhood is getting safer. The Shakespeare and Grand-Central police districts that comprise Logan Square have seen significant drops in homicides and most violent crime over the past three years. But some don't feel safe.
James Lunsford, a 34-year-old father of four, lives on the same block where Otero was killed. The Lunsfords were attracted by the rent: $775 for a two-bedroom-hundreds less than he was paying in Kilbourn Park.
"I never knew nothing about the gangs," said Lunsford. Now, the car messenger drives his kids to school because he is afraid to let them board the school bus or play outside.
"Things are changing," said David Sopt, 21, referring to the western section where he still lives. "You do not want to be dressed in baggy clothes or wearing the wrong colors at night."
Sometimes, just a mile or so to the east, it seems like a different world.
On Tuesday, artist Emily Sommer, 26, was drinking coffee and reading at a Starbucks on California Avenue. She said she had not heard about the four murders.
"People that live in Logan Square a lot of times just live here," Sommer said. "Everything else they do is in other parts of the city, which leaves a lot of them unaware of what goes outside the immediate surroundings of their neighborhood."