CHICAGO (CBS) — Residents of a Near West Side community are trying to fight back and set the record straight about a label they say their neighborhood doesn’t deserve: most dangerous in the nation.
CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports that a recent report by geographer Dr. Andrew Schiller for the commercial real estate site NeighborhoodScout.com said that a neighborhood – identified in the report as “W. Lake St.,” – is the most dangerous neighborhood in the country.
The area bounded by Kinzie Street on the north, Washington Boulevard on the south, Damen Avenue on the east and Western Avenue on the west is more commonly known as the Kinzie Industrial Corridor. It’s a place many call home or have a business.
Chris McLaughlin has his Internet company, Drug Help Desk, in the neighborhood. He called the report “absurd.”
“This is an absolutely ridiculous claim. I’m here every single day. I walk home at all hours of the night and I literally have never once felt threatened,” McLaughlin said. “If I were in the mugging business, I’d mug me … but nothing would ever happen. It’s a safe neighborhood.”
McLaughlin was so incensed by the report that he offered to fly its author to Chicago for a tour, but he said Schiller declined.
“It’s hurting residential property values. Anybody who owns property in this neighborhood, their values are going to be hurt,” McLaughlin said.
The report claims the chances of being a victim of violent crime in the neighborhood are one in four.
But Chicago Police Department crime statistics show that claim is inaccurate.
The neighborhood named the most dangerous in the report corresponds directly to Census Tract 280500, which ranks toward the middle for crime among city neighborhoods.
Of the city’s 873 Census tracts, the “W. Lake St.” neighborhood cited in the report tied for 417th for overall crime, with a total of 324 crimes reported in the past year. For violent crime, the neighborhood ranked 349th, with a total of 29 violent crimes reported in the past year.
Andrew Fogaty, Director of Outreach for Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago, noted that the area was recently approved for a new international trade center.
“It’s a thriving community and we were really shocked when we saw the story. I don’t know where he got his information,” Fogaty said.
The Arts of Life, a non-profit based in the neighborhood, provides employment in the arts for those with developmental disabilities. The American Tango Institute is also located in the area.
“Our tango dancers come here from all over the city and all over the suburbs, from out of the country and have a great time dancing without any problems,” said Alison Hamilton, the institute’s program director.
Asked for his opinion of the report, Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), who represents the Kinzie Industrial Corridor, said, “I think it’s insane. I live in the neighborhood.”
“That area is the worst in the country? Give me a break,” Burnett added.
Another major criticism of the report is that the crime data it relied on was outdated and flawed.
Calls and emails to Schiller for comment on his report were not returned.