CHICAGO: When the weather is nice, Ehrick Harper likes to sit outside of the Chatham Great Choice apparel store where he works.
Harper, 38, knows the store is on a particularly violent stretch of East 79th Street, but says he makes the two-hour commute from the West Side because he needs work.
“I have to feel safe — it’s my job,” Harper says with a smile as he glances over his right shoulder at his co-worker.
The store closes at 7 p.m., and residents say the bustling commercial strip near Cottage Grove changes for the worse at night, just in time for Harper’s bus trip home.
“You put too many people in a [bad] situation and it reaches a boiling point,” Harper said. “When there is no economic structure for people, they tend to stray or they try and make something out of nothing. That means violence, or whatever they need to do to get it cracking, as they say on 79th.”
The store is in the middle of 2 1/2-mile stretch that divides the Avalon Park, Chatham, Greater Grand Crossing, South Chicago and South Shore communities.
The stretch has had nine homicides since the start of 2013. Two other 79th Street slayings in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood make it the street with the most killings since the start of 2013, according to data from the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Robert Tracy, Chicago Police chief of crime control strategies, noted that 79th Street is a busy transportation hub that goes through several neighborhoods and gang conflict territories. Continue Reading
Article Org: suntimes.com