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Around 47th Street 'L' Station, Police Take Steps Against Violence

By DNAinfo Staff on June 24, 2013 6:36am

 Police say they are taking a "no tolerance" approach to crime near the 47th Street "L" station after several people were shot near the station in spring.
Violence Around 47th Street 'L' Station
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BRONZEVILLE — Since her son Kevin Ambrose was killed by gunfire several weeks ago steps away from the 47th Street "L" station, Ebony Ambrose hasn't made a single trip to the area, even though it's just two blocks away.

"I haven't walked toward 47th since Kevin was shot," Ebony Ambrose said. "I'm hearing there are more cops out, but the mentality of the young people hasn't changed. There's so many adults now who are afraid to take public transportation."

Kevin Ambrose, a Columbia College student, was killed the night of May 7 walking to the "L" to meet a friend. Just three weeks later, four people were wounded in an early evening shooting in the same block.

Violence is nothing new on a stretch of 47th Street that bills itself as the "Chicago Blues District," but with those high-profile shootings shaking the community, police say they have taken a "no-tolerance" approach to crime in the area around the station.

Since Terence Williams took over in April as commander of the Chicago Police Department's Wentworth District, police say they have focused on major streets such as 35th, 47th and 51st, both making sure they are seen and quashing activity like drug dealing, gambling and loitering before it escalates into shootings.

"Because of the violence stirring in the community, you have to get out of your car and get with" possible criminals, said Officer Denise Gathings, the district's community policing liaison.

Gathings says there have been several "proactive" steps taken in the community to make 47th Street safer.

Among them:

Those officers who patrol 47th Street are asked to write reports on what they exactly did during the duration of their shifts. Officers are expected to park their vehicles and walk the beat.I

In May, the No. 47 CTA bus stops serving the "L" station was moved from underneath the tracks to street corners, so authorities could better distinguish who is actually waiting for a bus and who is loitering or possibly doing worse.

Police held an outdoor roll call near the corner of 47th Street and Prairie Avenue, close to where both of the shootings occurred in May. The district is considering making outdoor roll calls, in which the start of officers' shifts are visible to the public, a regular occurrence.

Officers have walked into individual businesses along 47th Street, which are mostly a mix of currency exchanges, apparel stores and liquor stores, saying loitering outside won't be tolerated.

Between May 16 and June 18, police made 17 mostly drug-related arrests on the block surrounding the 47th station.

Despite these efforts, those using the station, which prior to the Red Line construction projection had 1,300 riders on an average weekday, still feel uneasy in the area.

"During the day, I feel safe, but once the stores close it turns bad," said Jason Dean, a 31-year-old Park Manor resident who drives to his old Bronzeville neighborhood every day to take the "L" to work. "I stay focused when I'm walking. You'd be a fool not to."

Businesses, many of which close by 7 p.m., are also hurt by the specter of violence.

"I was talking to a customer and just hear 'takatakatakataka,'" George Awe, 30, said about when a bullet flew through a Cricket Wireless store, 315 E. 47th St., where he works during a shooting that wounded four people.

Awe says business at the store has suffered by about 60 percent, as people walking to and from the train don't want to stop in any of the stores nearby.

"It's horrible, but what can you do?" Awe said. "I don't want to work here, sometimes."

Though Gathings said there had been a lull in shootings and violence in the area in recent weeks, she said she hoped recent efforts could make the calm permanent.

Until then, local residents will still be on guard.

"When you hear loud noises you are going to look. When cars slow down, you are going to be careful," Ebony Ambrose said. "It's insane in what you have to do to protect yourself walking from the 'L' to your home."