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Uptown Shootings Rattle Community After 13 Bullets Hit Cellphone Store

By  Benjamin Woodard and Adeshina Emmanuel | June 12, 2013 11:08am 

 At least four people have been shot in Uptown in June, leaving members of the community on edge in a changing neighborhood still afflicted by pockets of gang violence.
Uptown Crime
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UPTOWN — As Uptown residents expressed fear and frustration over recent shootings in the North Side neighborhood, an alderman and two police commanders assured neighbors Tuesday night that they were ready for summer weather and the uptick in crime that usually follows.

"It's an ongoing battle. It's going to happen," said Foster Police District Cmdr. James Jones. "Our job is to prevent it as long as we can and as best as we can."

Four people have been shot in Uptown in June in three separate incidents.

On Monday, two people were wounded in a shooting in the 4800 block of North Sheridan Road, which was likely retaliation for a shooting last Friday near Truman College, police said.

Gang members suspected in Friday's shooting were hanging out on Sheridan Road, where opposing gang members saw them and "ran 'em down and shot 'em," the commander said.

Police nearby managed to catch one "person of interest" and recover a gun, but "there's still a bad guy that got away," Jones said.

Jeevanjot Kaur, a regional manager for Cricket Wireless, said that at least 13 bullets entered the company's store at Sheridan and Lawrence Avenue Monday, forcing employees to hit the floor. Bullets also struck a Family Dollar store nearby.

Kaur, who wasn't at the store during the shooting, was working at the location Tuesday after employees who witnessed the incident declined to return to work.

“They didn’t show up,” Kaur said, adding that the employees were single mothers. “Physically they are okay, but emotionally they’re still in pain.”

Truman College students Jessica Stephenson, 20, and Quintae Dorsey, also 20, were also shaken up by the recent shootings.

“It’s something that we see all the time on the South Side and West Side,” Dorsey said. "[I] didn’t know there was much of any crime over here.”

Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) told neighbors during the community meeting at the Broadway Armory, 5917 N. Broadway, that he hoped $800,000 in new street lighting on Winthrop and Kenmore Avenue would improve safety in Edgewater and Uptown.

He encouraged neighbors to band together to make a positive presence on street corners known to host gang members.

"If we are all together in a group like this on a street corner, guess what, the bad guys aren't going to be there," he said. "All of us got to be out in the neighborhood."

The alderman also said he'd be opening two satellite ward offices, on Argyle Street and Thorndale Avenue, to help improve safety in those areas.

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) echoed Osterman's call for community engagement in a recent newsletter, saying that he wants those who look the other way and harbor criminals in their homes to be punished.

"[We are] working with the mayor's office and building managers to force the few people that are creating most of the violent crimes in our ward out of their homes," Cappleman said in the newsletter.

Rogers Park Police District Cmdr. Thomas Waldera said both his and Jones' district had received 10 bicycle police officers to patrol the lakefront and other areas during the summer months.

Several neighbors praised the police efforts to clean up the streets since last year's rash of violent crime, but others were concerned about an "open air drug market" on Argyle Street.

"It's an obvious drug market and I'm tired of it," said Brian Balwierz, a two-year resident of a building near Kenmore Avenue and Argyle Street.

He said he was picking up trash in front of his building Saturday when a "drunken pig crackhead" told him to get his "white ass back in my building.

"I said, 'You know what, I'm going to do what I want to do, and it's not up to you to tell me what to do,'" Balwierz recalled.

Then the situation escalated.

"He decided to slug me in the face," he said. "Well, I used to play hockey and I'm a big boy. I kicked him where it hurt, and when he went down I kneed him in his head and then I smashed his face against a parked car."

The tale drew cheers from some attendees of the meeting.

"I fear living in fear way more than I fear death," added Balwierz, who on Tuesday still had a bruise above his left eye where he was punched.

Osterman assured the resident that a foot patrolman had been assigned to Argyle Street since Jones took over.

"He's been out there doing a very good job," he said. "Your points about the problem are accurate, 100 percent. There are a lot of people out there that are problem people."

Longtime Uptown resident and artist Ginny Sykes said she was “dismayed" by the recent spate of shootings, but thinks locals will come together and do the right thing.

“It sounds like people are mobilizing around this, so that’s good,” Sykes said, mentioning potential plans for a positive loitering event for neighbors to show they weren’t going to take things lying down.