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Hyde Park Residents Brace For Halloween Surge Of Hundreds Of Teens

By Sam Cholke | October 24, 2017 5:21am
 More than 500 teens came to Hyde Park on two days last year.
More than 500 teens came to Hyde Park on two days last year.
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Twitter/Lainie Augensen

HYDE PARK — Hyde Park residents are preparing for hundreds of teenagers to descend on the neighborhood over two days for Halloween and hope to avoid the vandalism and violence seen last year.

Community organizers are expecting the crowds to grow from the estimated 500 teens last year who came from neighborhoods across the South Side to hang out together on 53rd Street.

LaKeisha Hamilton was out on 53rd Street last year trying to get an adult presence on the street, and this year has enlisted lots of her neighbors to come out and help.

“Let’s get the street activated so there isn’t space where they’re going to throw eggs at each other,” Hamilton said.

She said there are nearly 70 volunteers who will come out on Saturday and on Halloween to pass out candy and talk with kids on 53rd Street from Lake Park Avenue to Woodlawn Avenue. She said she’s still asking business owners to get involved to get more adults out as teens descend on 53rd Street.

During the festivities last year, there were 10 arrests and a handful of cases of vandalism. But there also were more serious instances of assaults, including a Hyde Park man badly beaten and robbed and a Kenwood woman punched in her head over a bucket of candy, after police dispersed the crowds into the neighborhood.

Hamilton said she’s trying to coordinate events on 53rd Street to make things easier for police on Saturday. She’s worked out a deal to have Harper Theater offer $5 movies at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. to minimize the number of kids on the street at one time during the Wentworth Police District’s shift change.

She said she’s also trying to arrange two trucks set up with games to come, and and other events like a DJ in Spruce Park, but has little to offer for the teens who come back on Halloween.

Fifth Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston and 4th Ward Ald. Sophia King have organized a Halloween party on the Midway Plaisance with the Chicago Park District that they hope will lure crowds that come for Halloween.

The event is promising a DJ and a costume party.

“We want to send a clear message that our community will not condone illicit and illegal behavior,” King and Hairston said in a joint statement. “However, we also understand the appeal of our vibrant, inviting and safe retail corridor; the propensity for good youth to cross lines; and the lack of opportunity for our teens to engage in safe and inviting activities.”

The aldermen said the Promontory, at 5311 S. Lake Park Ave., will host a free Peace Fest show at 5 p.m. Friday with Lil Bibby and Premo Ktm.

“We are aware that part of the issue last year was the lack of opportunities for positive engagement with our older teens,” the aldermen said. “However, we reiterate: Parents please let your teens know that illicit behavior will not be tolerated. But also let them know that we have organized activities planned for them.”

Hamilton said she’s worried there will be problems trying to move the crowds of teens who get off the bus or Metra on 53rd Street down to 59th Street and Woodlawn Avenue, the middle of the Midway Plaisance.

“If those kids don’t go to the Midway, I’ve got nothing to do, I’ve got nothing on 53rd Street,” Hamilton said.

She said she’s worried that the groups of teens being moved through the neighborhood will cause trouble for the parents with younger kids who come from across the South Side to trick-or-treat on 59th Street and Harper Avenue.

Hamilton said she’s still looking for more volunteers, and anyone who wants to help should come to 1453 E. 53rd St. on Saturday or Oct. 31. She said volunteers will be out on 53rd Street from 3 p.m. until crowds disperse on both days.