by Yesica P. Prado, Staff Writer and Photographer
Green, yellow and red lights glistened on the dark pavement of the intersection of Sheridan and Lawrence as water poured from the enraged gray sky. A thunderstorm smothered Uptown that Friday night, forcing residents to dash for cover.
Heavy rain pelted Genne Tenner’s face and his recumbent bicycle, as he stood at the intersection alone for Positive Loitering. The clouds angrily roared, and wind picked up speed, but that didn’t stop Tenner from preventing a drug deal in his neighborhood.
Tenner attended Positive Loitering, Uptown’s neighborhood crime watch, and stood against the harsh weather, using his presence to intimidate two young men from completing a drug deal. Positive Loitering meets every Friday night from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at various neighborhood corners, such as Sheridan and Lawrence and recently Broadway and Wilson, to prevent and report crime to the Chicago Police Department.
“I want to clean up the community,” said Tenner. “Being out in the corner on a Friday night reclaims this corner for us. It’s our community.”
46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman, 11 local neighbors and four Chicago Police attended Positive Loitering on a Friday night this fall, stopping public drinkers and drug dealers from disturbing peace on the streets. Positive Loiterers report criminal activity to 911 and have become extra eyes for the police by providing testimony on crimes witnessed.
“I am finding the police are often times torn between addressing hot spots where there is gang violence and places where there is a lot of public drinking,” said Cappleman.
In August 2009, Richard Thale, organizer of Positive Loitering and Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) facilitator, met with community members to address street violence and drug trade at the monthly CAPS meeting. At the time, street violence was very intimidating to residents, but together, the community chose Positive Loitering as a solution, said Thale.
The first Positive Loitering meeting took place Aug. 28, 2009, at which 100 people attended to show support and took over several corners of the Uptown area, added Thale. Positive Loiterers continue to confront crime hot spots, and according to Thale they “have made a difference” and “set the tone out in the streets.
But some residents don’t share these feelings. “I don’t know if I have seen a lot of difference,” said Patrick Waters, who has also participated in Positive Loitering. “There’s more drug sales than anything else, and I can’t say that has changed much since I’ve been here.”
Hoping to make a difference, Positive Loiterers welcomes everyone to join in the cause. Every Friday night, these dedicated residents continue to stand firm, protecting the community even during the cold winter.