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'I'm Frightened:' Two Shootings in Two Weeks Rock Quiet Irving Park Street

 Shots were fired Tuesday near Independence Park, drawing a packed crowd to Wednesday night's CAPS meeting.
Shots were fired Tuesday near Independence Park, drawing a packed crowd to Wednesday night's CAPS meeting.
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DNAinfo/Erica Demarest

IRVING PARK — The second shooting in as many weeks on a normally quiet street in Irving Park drew a standing room only crowd to Wednesday night's CAPS meeting for Beats 1732/33 at Athletic Field Park.

Just two weeks after a fatal Memorial Day shooting in the 4100 block of North Hamlin Avenue, residents were alarmed by news that shots were fired Tuesday in the same block.

"There's people literally talking about moving ... a quiet neighborhood going over to gangbangers," said one attendee.

Though no one was struck in Tuesday's incident, a suspect was immediately arrested and a weapon was recovered, neighbors took little comfort in that news.

Many were concerned about the lack of a community alert Tuesday, particularly given that the shooting took place at approximately 5:30 p.m. near busy Independence Park and a preschool.

Patty Wetli says neighbors are concerned in this normally quiet area:

But the primary question on residents' minds: Are gangs filtering into the neighborhood?

Chicago Police Capt. Tom Karnick, acting commander in the Albany Park District, confirmed that the individuals involved in the two shootings, which he said appear to be unrelated, didn't come from outside the area.

"These are gang members with an established presence in the area," he said.

The Familia Stone are based near Kedzie and Montrose avenues, and the Simon City Royal gang is centered at Cullom, Kimball and Drake avenues, according to police.

Neighbors reported bent street signs — symbols of gang activity — up and down Belle Plaine Avenue between Hamlin and Harding avenues.

"Do some of them live on the block now? We gotta find out," Karnick responded.

Police are continually gathering intelligence, whether there's been a shift in territory or a gang member has moved, added CAPS Sgt. Mike Anderson.

Neighbors asked for "ammunition," including information on gang tattoos, graffiti and colors. Anderson suggested a gang seminar, which could be held in the coming months.

Aside from a call for increased police patrols, neighbors asked what they can do to discourage gang activity and protect themselves from the violence.

Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) and Ald. John Arena (45th) — all of whom have constituents in Irving Park — were in attendance and encouraged residents to call their offices and report things like bent street signs, broken street lights and overgrown vacant lots.

"You've got to stay active," Reboyras said. "An active community sends a huge message."

The aldermen, who are immediately notified when a shooting occurs, also agreed to pass that information along to schools and parks in the vicinity.

Karnick urged residents to report problem buildings, which can be targeted by police with inspections and citations, and to call 911 if that "sixth sense goes off."

"If you don't call, we don't know about it," he said.

Neighbors left the meeting saying they were no more reassured than when they arrived.

"I've lived here 31 years, and this has never happened," said one resident who preferred to be identified only by her first name, Cindy.

"We're constantly hearing crime is down, but how come on the block I've lived for 31 years, there's shootings now?" she asked. "It's very scary. All I need is for the wrong person to walk in front of my house at the wrong time.

"I'm frightened," she said. "I've lived in the city all my life, and I don't frighten easy."

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