CHICAGO (CBS) — A gang turf war sparked a shooting that left three men wounded in Evanston on Thursday, leaving nerves rattled in the area. The violence also might have hurt attempts to revitalize the Howard Street corridor.
Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington told Ald. Ann Rainey he is flooding the area with extra patrols to push back the violence. Chicago police had a similar reaction just across the city line, but will the crime push out attempts to revitalize the corner of Howard and Damen?
Pascal Berthoumieux opened Café Coralie at that corner a few years ago, in an old Evanston police station.
“You have to see yourself as a pioneer,” she said.
Just outside is Howard Street, the border with Chicago.
“This was a fairly dangerous area,” said Rogers Park resident Orlando Richardson.
Since 2011, the city of Evanston has been buying up decaying storefronts in the area, and offering tax incentives to an eclectic mix of restaurants and businesses.
“You couldn’t even walk down the street after eight,” said Eric Oropeza, owner of Sweet Temptations Bake Shop.
As commerce moved in, crime seemed to move out.
“I see a transformation, and it’s for the good of the community,” Richardson said.
However, a number of gang-related shootings since April have disturbed the peace.
Rainey said the violence has caused “terrible terrible trouble, and damage, and chaos.”
“We’re all on edge,” Evanston resident Jeannie Sanke said.
Increased police patrols from both Evanston and Chicago now cast a shadow on the success story.
Major crimes in Evanston have dropped 39 percent in the past decade, from roughly 3,100 in 2007 to 1,900 last year. Revitalization along Howard Street has been a major part of that.
Rainey spearheaded many of the projects, and hopes the increased police presence will help, but she fears the recent crime could jeopardize her efforts.
“It could, but I hope people agree with me it’s a phase,” she said.
“I think in times like these, we need to be united,” Berthoumieux said. “It is a reminder that, despite all the efforts, we can’t turn things around overnight.”
With more businesses along Howard Street, and more customers, there are more eyes to spot suspicious activity.
Businesses also can place pressure on the police department to increase patrols, because of the tax revenue businesses provide to the city.