By Lorraine Swanson
Pioneer Press News-Star
Uptown residents met in a drizzling rain last week to address long-standing problems stemming from the Public Storage property at 4012 N. Broadway.
In the past years, the public drinking and other illegal activities have taken a toll on area businesses and forced children to walk different routes to school to avoid the troublesome block.
With only a sidewalk separating them, members of the U-Haul Task Force and a business liaison officer from the 23rd Police District met on Aug. 8 with a group of men who hang out on the sidewalk across the street from the U-Haul rental facility looking to hustle extra money by helping people renting trailers and trucks move.
Residents who live near the Public Storage property have complained that some who congregate on the sidewalk drink, fight, sell drugs and harass passersby by aggressively panhandling or making rude comments.
While the residents have made some progress through CAPS Beat 2322 by forming a task group to address the problem, roadblocks still remain.
"In all the time I've lived here, community expectations have changed. Maybe hanging out on the street corner drinking was okay 15 years ago, but now I come through here with my kids," said David Andes, chair of the CAPS Beat 2322 U-Haul Task Force. "I have to follow the law. Why shouldn't they?"
In April, members of the Buena Park Neighbors Block Club and CAPS participants sent a letter to Vance Henry, director of the Chicago Police Department's CAPS Program, expressing their "grave concerns" about the incidences of crime that have occurred on the Public Storage property.
According to information provided by the 23rd District Court Advocacy subcommittee, some of those crimes have ranged from robberies at nearby businesses and criminal trespass to vehicles, to narcotics sales and battery, allegedly committed by individuals who are regulars in front of the Public Storage facility.
"It's not illegal to stand and hang out on the sidewalk, but it is illegal to drink and harass people, to solicit and damage public property," 23rd District Officer Carrie Von Sagun said.
Some of the men confronted by neighbors who turned out for the meeting said that although they are homeless, they grew up in Uptown and that newer residents snatching up rehabs or condos want them out of the neighborhood.
"I've lived in Uptown since 1963. Some days I can $200 helping people move. We're out here trying to make a living," said Eugene Jones. "I live in this neighborhood but I'm not part of the 'we.'"