Ald. Hairston addresses community concerns about Halloween at 5th Ward meeting

Ald. Leslie Hairston speaks during her 5th Ward meeting on July 23. (Photo by Marc Monaghan)

Staff writer

Fall is coming, and with it fears for a fourth-consecutive year of Halloween-related youth violence on the streets of Hyde Park.

“It crosses the line of shenanigans or Halloween tricks or treats when you start setting cars on fire,” Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said at a ward meeting at the Augustana Lutheran Church, 5500 S. Woodlawn Ave. She made a distinction between youth who came to Hyde Park to enjoy the night’s organized festivities and those who came to vandalize property. “That is criminal activity.”

Hairston’s assistant Lanita Ross said there have been several meetings between the 4th and 5th wards’ offices and the Chicago Police, though no plans have yet been made. A meeting is planned for Thursday, July 25, at 2 p.m. at the Oakwood Community Center, 3825 S. Indiana Ave.

“We’re still gathering information and trying to come up with the best solution for all involved,” Ross said. Vincent Cole, housing director at University Church, 5655 S. University Ave., referenced the Teens on 53 group, which has been holding “peace circles” there in collaboration with the Blue Gargoyle organization.

Kyana Butler, an organizer with Southside Together Organizing for Power, took issue with attendee Kenneth Newman’s suggestion that residents protect themselves on Halloween with baseball bats, connecting the violence with youth disaffection and fears about displacement.

“I don’t think violence to solve violence is going to help anyone,” she said. “Also with saying that, the fact that some people, or some of you, feel threatened already because they’re being pushed out of some areas and talked down on, that’s why they do the destructive things they do.

“And if you can talk to them with a little more sincerity and a little more empathy, then we can actually get through to youth and not worry about whether they are going to destroy our property or not.”

Hairston also pledged to host 2nd Chicago Police District Commander Dion Boyd for a community meeting on Halloween planning.

On other topics, Hairston, who notably supported Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in the mayoral election, said she was “even more excited by the prospect of the next four years” after her first one-on-one meeting the Mayor Lori Lightfoot. She said they discussed police reform, a third Chicagoland airport in the south suburbs, a new hospitality training facility in the ward, housing, “middle class relief for home repairs” and banks, noting their reluctance to loan funds to condominium associations.

“We have people in our neighborhoods who have lived here for years, and we want to make sure that they’re able to stay in their homes and get the financial assistance that they need so that they can stay in their homes,” she said.

After being attacked by challengers during her re-election campaign for her less-than-stellar attendance record for committee meetings, Hairston also asked Lightfoot to give aldermen better notice of hearings. Asked about Lightfoot’s Tuesday-announced plan to change the city’s ticketing policies, including reducing sticker-related fines and working towards getting those with suspended licenses because of non-driving-related violations back on the road, Hairston said she had not read the proposed reforms but supported many of its tenets.

“You have to be able to get to work; most people use a car,” she said. “Taking your license in this day and age, that’s really the only piece of identification that you have. So, if you suspend the license or take the license, it makes it more difficult for people to function. There are some things that you can’t do, because you need to use that for identification purposes. If you really want to get people to pay their tickets, then let them go to work.”

Hairston also said that the hearings into the Civilian Office of Police Accountability she called for in a resolution have yet to be scheduled.