NOBLE SQUARE — Catalina Geigel grew up in Wicker Park, and remembers when the neighborhood had fewer upscale boutiques — and a lot more gangs.
Though the area became more safe over the years, Geigel said the recent spate of violence — like a Wednesday morning shooting in the 1100 block of North Milwaukee Avenue — is taking her back.
"It used to be like you couldn't really go out at night, like there were a lot of gangs and stuff hanging out around here," Geigel said. "Since then it's gotten more chill, but just in the past couple months it feels like it's starting to go back."
Geigel, who works at VILLA shoes, 1555 W. Division St. said a bullet came through the store's front window the day after 19-year-old Cesar Perez was shot to death during rush hour just outside the Division Blue Line station. It happened while her coworkers were inside.
"It's really scary, like suddenly I really don't know how safe we are around here," Geigel said.
The latest incident happened at 3:50 a.m. Wednesday, when a 29-year-old man was walking to his car in the 1100 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, near the Division Blue Line station, when he was confronted by a man who pulled out a gun and shot him, according to Officer Janel Sedevic, a Chicago Police spokeswoman.
The man was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was listed in serious condition with gunshot wounds in his abdomen, ankle and buttocks, Sedevic said.
He was the sixth person to be shot around the Polish Triangle — the area where Ashland Avenue, Division Street and Milwaukee Avenue intersect — since December, exploding beyond what many business owners considered normal for the area.
Three men were wounded there in a drive-by shooting in December, and another man was shot about a month later. And in March, the community was shaken when Perez was killed just outside the Division Blue Line station.
Greg Jamka, owner of the Polish restaurant Podhalanka, 1549 W. Division St., chalked up the violence to the area's emerging night life. The next-door evilOlive night club and Esso, where the December shooting occurred, both regularly stay open until 4 a.m.
"There are a lot of young people coming into the area here, which is fine," Jamka said, "but with these clubs you get a lot of drunk people who can cause problems sometimes."
Still, he added, the neighborhood has become much safer since 1983, when his family first opened the restaurant at its current location.
"Back then, this whole area was nothing but crime — people killing, raping, all kinds of horrible stuff," he said. "Compared to that, it's still nice over here. And at the end of the day, stuff is gonna happen."
But for Mohammad Abdullah Matheen, who operates the 24-hour Green Arch Food Mart, 1219 N. Milwaukee Ave., the recent shootings have become a cause for serious concern.
"I feel like people around here are starting to walk around wondering if they're going to get shot, like they might not want so much to come over to my store," he said. "I really don't know what's been going on these past three months or so...But it's getting out of control, and I'm worried."
No one is in custody for Wednesday's shooting, Sedevic said.
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