West Town residents fed up with crime speak out: 'I want to move out of here'
CHICAGO - A Tuesday night community meeting brought together Chicago police, aldermen and the public.
"That gunshot that we heard, it scared me to death and I want to move out of here," said Pooja Gandhi, who lives across the street from Lyon’s Den Hookah Lounge, the scene of a recent fatal shooting.
Austin McAllister was working as a bouncer at Lyon's Den when he was killed early New Year's Day.
With a fed up community, police leaders and aldermen called the meeting at the auditorium of St. Mary’s Hospital.
The meeting focused mostly on violence right along Division Street, but over the past few months, there have been robberies, violent attacks and two murders in the West Town area.
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In response to the recent crime, there is now an increase in police officers in the area and an overnight parking ban on Division Street. Still, some in the crowd ask why, after the fatal shooting occurred, wasn’t the lounge shut down?
Police were on hand to explain the business hasn’t violated any ordinances and said they are trying other avenues of enforcement, and working with the owner who is adding security and shortening operating hours.
"What I take that as is, they need to see more deaths happen for them to be able to shut down the business," said Gandhi.
Neighbors discussed other crimes taking place in the West Town and Ukranian Village area.
"Within the last month, two very close friends were robbed at gunpoint. My car was stolen behind my condo building at 9:30 at night on a Sunday and another friend's condo building was broken into. She has two young kids," said a woman named Andrea who lives just off Division.
Chicago police reassured the crowd they work diligently on every case.
"We have officers working those, retrieving video, speaking with victims, and we do catch offenders," said Commander Elizabeth Collazo of the 14th police district.
Alderman Brian Hopkins urged the crowd to work together and to not give up.
"Stay here. Don’t move. Don’t move to suburbs. It’s worth fighting for," said Hopkins of the 2nd Ward.
The police and aldermen asked the crowd to keep attending the community or police beat meetings, and to report anything suspicious in their neighborhood.