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Ten Arrested During 'Halloween Purge' Fueled By Social Media In Hyde Park

By Sam Cholke | November 1, 2016 11:56am
 Teens and police seen Monday night near 53rd Street and Dorchester Avenue during a mass gathering of teens in Hyde Park.
Teens and police seen Monday night near 53rd Street and Dorchester Avenue during a mass gathering of teens in Hyde Park.
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Twitter/Lainie Augensen

HYDE PARK — Following warnings that high school kids were planning a raucous "Halloween Purge" to cause trouble with paint balls, eggs and fights in Hyde Park, about 500 turned out, with some damaging cars and businesses.

The crowd drew a heavy police response, and authorities reported 10 arrests, all juveniles. The arrest came between 9 and 10 p.m. Monday on the 5200 block of South Lake Park Avenue.

Though police estimated 250 kids came to Hyde Park on Halloween looking for something to do, people in the neighborhood said it was at least double that, with as many as 500 kids hanging out on 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue Monday night.

There were scattered reports from neighbors and in the Chicago Maroon of kids jumping on cars, throwing eggs and shooting paintball guns, but people on the street on Monday night said it never got out of control and the trouble was largely limited to kids fighting.

“It didn’t feel like it was out of hand,” said LaKeisha Hamilton, who spent much of the night on the corner of Dorchester Avenue and 53rd Street passing out candy in a witch costume.

She said the problems from her vantage point seemed to be limited to the spots along the street where there were not adults out to discourage fighting.

“I know for sure some of those kids were just out there for fighting,” Hamilton said.

Neighbors reported seeing as many as 50 police officers, including Wentworth District Commander Crystal King-Smith, out trying to break up the largest groups of kids.

Videos posted to Twitter show officers confiscating a bat from one kid and driving squad cars down the sidewalks of 53rd Street to break up groups of teens.

Police characterized the arrests as minor.

The most serious arrest involved a boy who climbed into a police van through the passenger window and tried to steal an officer’s cell phone. He was charged with theft and criminal trespassing to a vehicle, according to police.

A teenage girl was arrested for aggravated assault to a police officer for allegedly kicking an officer while the officer was trying to arrest her friend, according to police.

Police said there were three arrests for disorderly conduct, four arrests for reckless conduct, one arrest for aggravated battery of a police officer, one arrest for criminal trespassing and theft and one arrest for mob action for failing to withdraw.

University of Chicago police as of Monday morning reported no arrests in relation to the gathering of teens.

Kenwood Academy Principal Gregory Jones warned parents Monday afternoon to expect a large "Halloween Purge" — a social media-fueled gathering of teens on 53rd Street with the intention of fighting, throwing eggs and causing other trouble. He urged parents not to allow their kids to hang out on 53rd Street on Monday night.

Hamilton said many of the kids she talked to said their parents dropped them off in Hyde Park because it was considered a safe space on the South Side for kids to go.

Teens have gathered in Hyde Park to hang out for Halloween in the past, but this year the number of kids spiked, with reports of as many as 1,000 kids hanging out on Lake Park Avenue, 51st and 53rd streets on Saturday.

Hamilton said she’s now trying to organize events for teens in Hyde Park in the same way that Harper Avenue neighbors come together to decorate create a Halloween event to welcome younger kids from across the south lakefront.

“They were complaining that their feet hurt and they had no where to sit down and enjoy each other’s company and some food,” Hamilton said.

She said the police were largely left to manage all the kids and the officers she saw were usually friendly and joking with the teens.

Hamilton said after talking to teens Monday night that she believes gatherings in Hyde Park will happen every year on Halloween and the Saturday before the holiday and Hyde Parkers should be prepared to welcome the kids into a safe neighborhood and give them something to do so they don’t resort to bickering and fighting.

Damage so far appears to be limited to overturned garbage cans and some dented cars.

The front window of Jeffery Dollar Store, 1443 E. 53rd St., was broken early in the evening on Monday, but it remains unclear whether it was intentional.

Chicago police said more reports of damage done on Monday night may still be reported later today and Monday morning’s reports may not include all damaged property.

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