Lincoln Square sees signs of increased gang activity

An increase in reports of "tagging" and vandalism in the Lincoln Square neighborhood has residents worried that  a lull in gang activity in the area has come to an end.

The concerns were shared Tuesday at a community policing meeting for Beat 2031 at the Swedish Covenant Hospital.

One resident said her property in the 4800 block of Oakley Street has been repeatedly tagged with insignias by the Latin Kings street gang.

The 20th district's Commander Lucy Moy attributed a recent increase in vandalism to turf wars between the Latin Kings and the Simon City Royals.

The district is bounded by Peterson Avenue to the north, Lawrence Avenue to the south and on the east and west by Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.

Moy said the assistance of local residents has helped result in several recent arrests. Moy said taking a picture can often help police catch repeat vandals.

"If you guys can give us an address and take a picture with your digital camera or your phone, we can try and identify who the tagger is or catch them in the act," she told those gathered at the meeting. "We just caught three of them two weeks ago."

Command Sgt. Jim Morley also cited a recent incident in Gross Park with the Latin Kings. Teens who are alleged members of the gang had been seen hanging out in the park, which used to be a hotbed of Latin Kings activity, he said. Morley said the park has not been the site of gang activity for six to eight years.

But officers said crime in the district is down overall from last year. According to statistics on the Chicago Police Department website, the number of burglaries in the district went from 125 between January and May last year to 113 in the same period in 2008, a decrease of 9.6 percent.

Property crimes have also declined, down 8 percent for the same period. Citywide, crime has risen 2.2 percent in the first five months of 2008,  according to the website.

Other residents expressed concern that officers from their district would be transferred to police areas with higher crime rates. Moy denied that this shift would be taking place. She said such a strategy had been discussed to address officer shortages, but would not be initiated.