Some of the highest crime areas in the country are right here in Chicago. And while homicides citywide were down in 2010, homicides in Englewood jumped 50-percent! The Englewood and Harrison police districts alone historically account for 25-percent of ALL crime in the city. Englewood is on the south side just off the Dan Ryan, roughly Garfield Boulevard to about 75th street, State street to Racine. What happened to the Englewood neighborhood, once one of Chicago's most desirable? WGN's Nancy Loo reports on how Englewood became Chicago's deadliest neighborhood, and what some families have to do to stay alive.
"My life changed in the blink of any eye. I wasn't prepared for it," says Englewood resident and single mom Lakisha Ruchert. "And it wasn't fair to my son, cause I should be the one to make the decision about how Montrell gonna live his life, not no one else." On a spring night in 2008, gun violence and a case of mistaken retaliation left 8-year-old Montrell Stevens a paraplegic. "I had to start back all over again. Nancy-Like how? I couldn't even sit up. I couldn't put on my clothes by myself." Montrell dreams of living in the suburbs someday. Nancy- "Do you think life is good in the suburbs? (Montrell nods) Why? Because, they don't shoot out there." But for now, Englewood has to be home for him, his two siblings, and single mom. "I can't afford to go anywhere else. And then my job play a big part. I can't travel with my job, so if I do move and I would lose work and have to start all over again." Not far away, Henry Wilson been untouched by violence in his 55 years living near 65th and Sangamon. He and his late wife "Tina" raised three sons here. He knows his neighbors and staunchly defends the place he calls home. "Englewood is still one of the greatest communities in Chicago, historically and currently." Englewood was the place to move after the great Chicago fire of 1871. And it drew a stylish crowd during the Columbian Exposition. Housing was plentiful and trains made it easy to get downtown. Photos from the Chicago public library document Englewood's vibrant shopping district at 63rd and Halsted, with anchor stores Sears and Weibolt. But a new form of transportation was among the sparks of Englewood's decline. Dr. Dominic Pacyga authored the Book, "Chicago, A Biography" and is a history professor at Columbia College. "It was a major transportation nexus. That's what made 63rd and Halsted the second most important shopping strip in the city in 1950. But what happens after 1950 is the automobile. Instead of centralizing, the automobile allows people to spread out." The upwardly mobile didn't come back. Englewood's population has dropped from almost a hundred thousand to about thirty thousand, shifting from largely Caucasian to predominantly African American. This is 63rd and Halsted today. The major retailers are long gone. And construction of the Dan Ryan expressway in the 50's split the neighborhood. As residents moved out, crime moved in, spurred in recent years by the dismantling of public housing nearby. "It's one of those neighborhoods that seems like every urban problem has been dropped on it. And it's a shame," says Pacyga. Last year, murders were down in every Chicago neighborhood except Englewood. Unemployment is nearly 30-percent. Lakisha Ruchert: "It's scary. It seem like to me that we're living in a war." And that means little time for kids to play outside and strict parental rules because it is literally a matter of life and death. Nancy asks Montrell: "You get to go out after dark? (shakes his head no) Nancy-Why not? Because it's people that take kids. Ya, what else can happen? They can get shot." The Chicago Police Department says the obvious crime problems in Englewood are drugs, gangs and guns. Coming up tomorrow night, an exclusive ride along in Englewood with Police Superintendent Garry Mccarthy. Hear how a new police intiative is shifting crime. And why some believe all Chicagoans should care about Englewood. Nancy Loo, WGN news."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times