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Living on the Nation's Most Dangerous Blocks Like Living in a 'War Zone'

By Darryl Holliday | May 8, 2013 6:27am | Updated on May 8, 2013 8:58am
 Four areas rated most dangerous in the U.S. are in Chicago. Longtime residents say they can see why.
Is This the 'Most Dangerous 'Hood' In Chicago?
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AUBURN GRESHAM — It comes as no surprise to Destiny Johnson that outside of Detroit, the neighborhood where she lives on the South Side is the most dangerous in the country.

It could be "the first," she said.

Although Johnson, 27, has lived in Auburn Gresham her whole life, she said the sound of gunshots is a weekly occurrence, and she makes sure she and her three young daughters always stay inside after dark.

"The area didn't used to be like this, but our generation is trigger-happy," she said.

There is a 1-in-9 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime in the 10-block area around her home in the 7800 block of South Lowe, according to NeighborhoodScout, a Massachusetts-based data and risk analysis firm.

That makes the area the fourth most dangerous in the nation, according to the website's analysis of census information and crime data from 17,000 local law enforcement agencies, titled "Top 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods." The only three areas in the country where residents were more likely to be crime victims were in Detroit.

Three other areas in Chicago made the list: near Homan Avenue and Roosevelt Road in North Lawndale; near Ashland Avenue and 76th Street in Auburn Gresham and near Indiana Avenue and 60th Street in Washington Park.

Chicago and Detroit each had four areas on the list, more than any other cities in the top 25. Indianapolis and Memphis each had two.

Although the data used to rank the areas is 2 years old — the most current information available for a nationwide comparison — longtime residents said things haven't gotten much better. Indeed, at least eight people were killed near the two ranked hotspots in Auburn Gresham in 2012, according to DNAinfo.com Chicago's homicide timeline.

James Ford, who has owned Ford Beauty and Barber shop at 7759 S. Halsted St. since 1978, said he isn't surprised by the numbers, although he thinks things are actually somewhat better than before. But he doesn't stick around late at night before heading home to suburban Hazel Crest.

"I stay 'cause business is good," said Ford, whose shop is across from a police station. "[But] I'm outta here as soon as I can — as soon as it gets dark."

Several blocks west, in an area NeighborhoodScout said was the 16th most dangerous area nationally, a man who identified himself only as "79th Street Anonymous" said economics and poverty, which lead some to commit crimes, is the root of the the area's troubles.

The 60-year-old was selling cigarettes outside a gas station last week.

"They out here shooting and killing and everything — it's gotten so bad that, in a way, you can see how some people do that," he said. "That's why I sell cigarettes. It's a tight fight."

NeighborhoodScout's founder and chief scientist, Andrew Schiller, said he hopes the "Most Dangerous" list is not only used to identify "spots of violent crime" but also to "usher resources toward the problem."

Another ranking by his website found Chicago overall was actually the 79th most dangerous city in the nation, meaning that the bulk of the crime is happening in small areas.

"Most of the cities in America, even the ones that are highest [on the list], really can attribute that crime to a few neighborhoods," he said. "But, also, some wonderful changes have occurred. You can be on this list, and in a few years ... come off the list and actually be a wonderful place. So there's hope."

But others weren't so sure.

In North Lawndale, which contains the nation's 13th most dangerous area according to the report, resident Archie Stevenson said the area is dangerous but "a picnic" compared to the Cabrini-Green public housing project where he used to live.

Still, upon hearing that the area was ranked the 13th most dangerous spot in the country, the shipyard worker said, "You hear [gun]shots but it's not even shocking anymore. It's not like we live in a war zone, but it's like we live in a war zone."

Stevenson, who was with his 4-year-old son Asante, said, "A lot of young people aren't going to make it through this."