CHICAGO (CBS) — In past years, some people have used Halloween night as an opportunity to stir up some real-life trouble, and even violence.

As CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra reported Sunday night, community groups this year are taking steps to prevent that – and make sure everyone is celebrating safely.

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The weather was chilly, but dry Sunday night – pretty good weather for Halloween. Such conditions always bring with them a chance that partiers will be out in the streets late.

Police added extra patrols in areas of Hyde Park such as the 53rd Street commercial strip. But community groups also walked the neighborhood’s blocks in an effort to make sure everything stayed festive and celebratory – and to stop anything before it takes a turn from the worse.

The group Good Kids Mad City was out in Hyde Park Sunday night, handing out gift cards, face masks, and hygiene products to those wandering the neighborhood after dark.

“We’re just glad, you know, that we can create a safe environment so that they don’t have to fear for their safety and there’s not a whole lot going on,” said Taylor Norwood of Good Kids Mad City.

Of course, no one has forgotten what happened on Hyde Park on Halloween three years ago.

In 2018, 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.

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“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.

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.

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. But this year, Good Kids Mad City wants to make young people feel welcome and rather than stereotyped or targeted – and is seeking to deescalate any interaction between late night revelers and police.

“It’s easier to handle people who feel familiar to you – and what’s more familiar than your peers?” Norwood said. “So we’re just out here trying to do our part.”

With all the flashing police lights on 53rd Street Sunday night – which involved a large presence by both Chicago and University of Chicago police – a few people stopped to ask Saavedra and her crew if something had happened. But Halloween night in Hyde Park remained peaceful as of the 10 p.m. hour.

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But one of the men said he remembers coming to Hyde Park as a kid and it was a safe and fun place to let loose in Halloween and enjoy it with friends. He said he hopes the same can be true in the future without such a huge law enforcement presence being necessary.

Marie Saavedra