An open-air drug market threatens to destroy a neighborhood

People who bring violence into a community destroy property values and the spirit of those who have invested in this city.

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Eight a.m. is when it begins. Between one to three men drive up in a vehicle, park their car and stand on the sidewalk. Soon, another vehicle with three to four men inside will arrive. And while children are headed to nearby schools, these men begin to sell. 

As the day progresses, another car drives up and parks. Another four people get out and join those who are already on the block. If you live on the block, you may not see them. But on a summer day, you hear constant calls of “nuk, nuk, nuk” indicating what they have available for sale to cars as they drive past. 

Drive further down the street and the calls will change, indicating a variety of other drugs for sale. By mid-afternoon, on any given day, there can be 15 people selling different items.

Four p.m. comes and yet another car drives up. This time, the car is full of the children of those who are selling on the street. They arrive to play, to hang out with their families, to watch, and sometimes, join their parent(s) plying their trade. The air fills with a variety of calls, as “nuk” and “8-ball” are interspersed with children laughing, yelling, crying. 

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At least three times a week, an argument breaks out among the sellers. The others in the group always seem to calm things down before weapons are drawn, but it’s only a matter of time till that happens. Marked police cars drive down the street, but then another call of warning is yelled out the moment the police car is seen, and the sales stop until the police are gone. The dealers sometimes mock the police as they drive past. 

This goes on until 10:30 p.m. when the children are taken home. The parents stay and continue to fight, use drugs, harass others and sell until 3 a.m. At 8 a.m., the cycle begins again.

It is easy to see the way in which displacement, disinvestment and racism factor into the development of this cycle. Yet those who live on this block want and need to see action taken to stop the open-air drug market on their street. 

Sadly, this block is not the only one that deals with people who bring violence that destroys property values, communities and the spirit of those who have invested in this city. 

It is difficult to watch as immediate action is taken against crime in more affluent areas of the city, while crime seems to be ignored in areas where blue-collar people have lived for decades.

You will find all ages, from retirees to young families, on this block. Watching people who have mobility issues, yet still have enough pride in their neighborhood to clean up the trash left by those who bring violence and sell drugs, is disheartening. 

The neighbors talk about how “This is new” and “It didn’t used to be like this.” My wife and I wonder if we will ever see a permanent solution for this problem. We’ve been here for four years and this block used to be peaceful. Now we wonder if we will break even if we sell.

In an election year in which people campaign for the votes of all Chicagoans, why is it that when it comes to services and issues of justice, those who live on the West and South sides remain unheard? With the real estate boom that has hit the city, the people who live here should be able to decide whether they want to sell because of the equity in their home. Instead, they want to sell because they no longer feel safe. 

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The situation is a ticking time bomb. Eventually, a resident of the neighborhood, a child, or a student will die because nothing has been done. This block needs action today — not next month or next year. Now — before it’s too late.

Yet, the groups continue to gather and torment. We deserve to live in a neighborhood that is as safe and comfortable as those in Lincoln Park, Old Town or the Magnificent Mile. 

The writer is a factory worker who lives on the West Side.

Editor’s note: At the next City Council meeting, a measure will be introduced to place restrictive residential parking on the writer’s block as part of an ongoing plan by the two local alderpersons and the police commander to make the block safer.

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