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Safe Passage routes marked by violent histories, Sun-Times analysis finds

O'Toole Elemtary School West Englewood neighborhood  |  Mitch Dudek~Sun-Times

O'Toole Elemtary School in the West Englewood neighborhood | Mitch Dudek~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 29, 2013 6:33AM



As thousands of students made their first trek Monday to new schools using Safe Passage routes, a Sun-Times analysis shows those routes may not be so safe.

Chicago Police data shows 213 people were wounded by gunfire, and another 49 people were murdered during the last school year within a block of the routes used by students whose schools have been closed.

Of the shootings, more than 20 percent occurred between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., when children could be on the street traveling those routes.

Of the murders, six out of 49, or 12 percent, took place during the school day.

The Safe Passage to Melody School in West Garfield Park saw the most murders. Seven people died between August 13, 2012 and June 24, 2013. Two of those murders occurred during the school day.

Violence near Melody continued Sunday, when a 14-year-old boy was shot at a back-to-school party along Melody’s Safe Passage route on West Gladys Avenue. The previous weekend, a 24-year-old man was shot and killed within a block of Melody’s route.

Kaylyn Williams, father of two kids at Melody, wasn’t overly alarmed.

“I feel the kids are relatively safe,” said Williams. “Those shootings happened in the wee hours of the day, not during schools hours.”

But Kelvina Nance, 25, said she’s not impressed with the Safe Passage route and said she plans to walk her 6-year-old twins to school.

“It can’t be too safe because kids are still getting shot up,”

Police spokesman Adam Collins did not address specifics of the Sun-Times analysis, but said in an emailed statement: “Ensuring the safety of our children is everyone’s top priority. ... In addition to the wide range of city services involved in Safe Passage, our CAPS officers have been knocking on the doors of residents along the routes to ask them to come out on to their porch or sidewalk before and after school.”

On Monday, hundreds of city employees lined the routes with a police helicopter overhead. They reassured children walking unfamiliar streets to their new schools, sometimes crossing rival gang turf.

Around 10 a.m., city workers found the dead body of a man stuffed in a garbage can less than a block from away from the Safe Passage route to Nicholson Tech Academy in Englewood. It was not known how he died, but seven shootings and one murder occurred during the previous school year near the Nicholson Safe Passage.

O’Toole Elementary in West Englewood posted the highest numbers of shootings and murders combined along a Safe Passage, with 13 people shot and three murdered during the previous school year.

“They need to stop all the killing, for real, it’s terrible out here. They’re just killing all our young black kids up,” said Vera Smith, whose two grandsons both attend O’Toole.

“I don’t feel safe walking home because we walk past a lot of gangs and a lot of unsafe places,” said Derrick Hamilton, an O’Toole sixth-grader. “Anybody can come past and just get to shooting without the police knowing. It don’t make me feel safe.”

Contributing: Fran Spielman, Stefano Esposito, Mitch Dudek and Lauren Fitzpatrick



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