By Jackie Kostek

CHICAGO (CBS) – Police were patrolling Hyde Park Saturday night, with Halloween festivities already under way.

Officers were trying to stamp out the violence and vandalism that often happens around Halloween in the neighborhood. As CBS 2’s Jackie Kostek reported, it is a concern in particular this year – as more traditional Halloween festivities return after last year’s were slowed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Most Halloween parties are not happening until Halloween Sunday night. But in Hyde Park, Chicago Police stepped up patrols ahead of time.

The area around 53rd Street and Harper Avenue was busy with squad cars running their lights Saturday night. Squad cars were also lined up at every other intersection with 53rd Street late Saturday.

Kostek spoke to some officers on the scene, who said there are more officers out here because of what happened in Hyde Park three years ago on Halloween.

Three years ago, Hyde Park neighbors were dismayed when the usual Halloween festivities turned to mayhem, vandalism, and violence. On Halloween night 2018, teens vandalized dozens of cars, harassed people attending a holiday street festival, and robbed University of Chicago students.

Witnesses said around 9:30 p.m. on Halloween night 2018, more than 100 young people walked down at least three blocks in Hyde Park, yelling as they smashed windshields, broke mirrors, lit off fireworks, and jumped on cars on stretches of Kimbark Avenue, Kenwood Avenue, and Ridgewood Court. At least 18 cars were damaged on the 5400 block of South Ridgewood Court alone that night.

“I saw them jump on my car, and jump on just a whole bunch of other people’s cars as well. So it was like I wanted to do something, but it was like there is like 200 of them, so I’m going to just kind of chill,” Nicholas Behzadi, whose car was one of those damaged, told CBS 2 that night.

Police said a 55-year-old man was beaten after he came out near 54th Street and Kimbark Avenue that night to try to defend his vehicle that night in 2018. He drove himself to the hospital.

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It was a loud and destructive scene, some of which was caught on cell phone video by people living nearby, who complained that police were not doing enough to stop the vandals.

“Last Halloween, my street was unrecognizable. Kids romping down our street, raising hell,” Hyde Park resident Michael Allen told CBS 2’s Chris Tye the following year.

The 2018 mayhem was not the first time there were problems. In 2016, nearly 500 teens converged on 53rd Street on Halloween, damaging property, throwing eggs, and vandalizing cars.

While bad weather in the form of a snowstorm in 2019, and the pandemic in 2020, largely squashed the possibility of a sequel the past two years, Chicago police haven’t forgotten what happened.

Police Supt. David Brown says CPD has put together a couple of special operations that focus on traffic safety and bumped up police presence.

“Young people are out trick-or-treating and walking, and people driving recklessly can be a danger,” Brown said. “We’re doing not just presence – not just in the violent areas, but we are also focused on traffic safety.”

But it’s the increased police presence across Hyde Park that Miracle Boyd of Good Kids Mad City said sparked the organization to plan its own event, along 53rd Street and University Avenue. Boyd said members of the group will be fanned out in the neighborhood starting at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, providing Halloween goodies and resources to young people who she says may be unfairly stereotyped because of past events.

“People in this community that they live here, and it’s like we’re not saying kick the youth out,” Boyd said. “We’re saying let them come, be themselves, and don’t stereotype them – because you’re in their communities, and they live in surrounding areas too – and they deserve to be protected just as you all, and not be criminalized saying whatever happened between years past. That’s the past now. Move forward.”

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Foot traffic on 53rd Street was busy Saturday night, but had died down by 10 p.m.