We must be better prepared for teens next Halloween

To the Editor:

In 2016 it is estimated that over 1500 teens from all over Chicago visited Hyde Park on the Saturday before Halloween and Halloween day. The community and the police were unprepared and the result was several arrests, vandalism, and a feeling that we must do better for our youth.

This year, myself along with several other community members got together to plan safe activities for the teens. We started planning in early September, met with police and local community organizations and developed what we believed was a plan for safe distractions for the teens. We were met, however, with reluctance, resistance, and a lack of support from local politicians and police that resulted in cancellation of most of the planned activities.

As a team, we persisted on a scaled back plan. We reached our goal of 100 volunteers over two days. Donations poured in and we were able to have video game trucks, discounted movies, and face painting. Volunteers stood on 53rd Street. in orange t-shirts greeting the teens and advising them of safety and appropriate behavior. We recovered eggs from teens to avoid them from being thrown and there was little vandalism on 53rd Street.

The night was not without incident. The crowd of hundreds of teens was overwhelming. They blocked traffic, used profanity, and ran back and forth on the sidewalk. There were two injuries and arrests related to bb guns. Law enforcement and private security were present, but there was little that they were able to do because, for the most part, the teens were not committing crimes.

This is where we, as a community, came in. The activities that we provided deterred crime throughout the night. The game truck, which held 20 teens at a time for 15 minutes, was filled the entire time. Large groups of teens gathered and danced as jazz artist Maggie Brown played the drums. When the teens had something to do, they participated and laughed, and were just kids.

In 2018, we must do better. We know that 53rd Street. is an attractive nuisance. We know that hundreds of teens from all over the city are coming. We also know that we cannot police them away or provide activities in areas where the teens won’t be. We block off streets and parking lots for Brewfest and the Block Party on 53rd Street, there is no reason we can’t create a teen street festival for Halloween. I challenge the entire community to join us in planning, donating, and volunteering, starting now, to change the Hyde Park Halloween narrative.

– Ebony Lucas,
Mom, Attorney, Active Community Member