Civilians Protect Students From Armed Gang Targeting Teens
ROSELAND — A half-dozen volunteers shepherded students to their Roseland prep school Thursday morning after DNAinfo reported that a gang of teens had been robbing kids at gunpoint near campus grounds.
A lone police officer, working as a crossing guard, arrived at a crosswalk about 8:05 a.m., five minutes after school started, but no other officers were seen.
Instead, local civilians have been taking up the cause of protecting the students at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, 250 E. 111th St., from a gang of armed thugs who robbed students three times, two days in a row before and after school, according to police and witnesses.
A 15-year-old boy was robbed, about 4:05 p.m. on Nov. 26, a block away from the school, police said. One of the suspects pulled a gun on him and stole the boy's cellphone and wallet with an undisclosed amount of cash. An 18-year-old student was robbed of his cell phone and headphones at gunpoint about 8 a.m. on Nov. 27, and a 16-year-old student was also held at gunpoint and stripped of his laptop, jacket, cap, bus card and cash on Nov. 27, just 15 minutes after the first robbery, police said.
Chicago Public Schools said it established a "safe passage" in the morning and afternoon for the students along "key routes" for Brooks students. The CPS Safe Passage program uses community watchers, who are recruited by third-party organizations, to guide students safely to and from school.
One organization working as part of Safe Passage to protect students at Brooks and other local high schools was the Black United Fund of Illinois, according to Stacey Spells, who leads team of civilians employed by the fund to protect students at local high schools.
The six-member team has been standing watch along 111th street since Friday in response to the string of robberies, said Spells, 21, who reported no issues so far. The crew wore neon green vests and fanned out on the campus about 7:10 a.m. Thursday before school. Spells said they've been working from 7 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. and then after school from 2:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.
"It's been real quiet since we came," Spells said.
Tomica Portis, whose 15-year-old son Tyler attends the school, said she was relieved to see the Safe Passage team out. Though there wasn't much of a police presence at the school after the armed robberies, Portis said there were uniformed officers posted outside the school during the 2011-2012 school year. She said she didn't know why they were taken away.
The principal of the school declined to comment Thursday morning.
"I'm scared for the kids," Portis, 38, a stay-at-home mom, said. "I want the mayor and police officers to realize our children are important as well."