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Alderman Says Gangs Have Left At Least 13 Blocks In The Dark In Brighton Park, And Problem Is Getting Worse

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Brighton Park is in the dark, with street lights completely out on more than a dozen blocks.

But the streetlights didn't burn out. As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported, the alderman said gang members are cutting the wires.

There are at least 13 different blocks with streetlights out. Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) asked police to increase patrols in the area – because as soon as the city fixes a light, the wires get cut again.

Walk down the streets in Brighton Park, you can see it for yourself – sliced wires hanging out at the bases of light poles. We found a few in such condition – pulled, broken, clipped.

On South Campbell Avenue, a three-block stretch is pitch black right now.

"This part of Brighton Park is a gang hot spot," Lopez said. "Gang members are pulling the wires; cutting the wires at the base."

Why are they doing it?

"Obviously to be the dark to; do what they want to do – whether it's driving through the neighborhood trying to shoot people, graffiti, or do other things of that nature," Lopez said.

The problem here is not a brand new one; CBS 2 first reported on it a year ago. At that time, a video posted to Facebook showed two men violently shaking power lines attached to underground wiring that powers a light pole at 44th and Wood streets.

But since then, it's gotten bigger and worse. Over just the past three months, Lopez's office said more than 200 complaints have been filed.

The city has closed about half of those complaints, but Alderman Lopez says the issue is that the lights don't stay on long even when they're fixed.

"As soon as we can fix it with CDOT, the lights are out the very next day," he said.

And thus, taxpayer money goes down the drain. Lopez's office says fixing the wires costs about $200, and with five streetlights on a block, that's $1,000 to restore – only to go dark again.

"At one point, we had to have police officers join CDOT crews to ensure we could keep the lights on, because the gangs were hanging around trying to see what we were doing; trying to intimidate city workers from putting the lights back on," Lopez said.

We talked to people who live and work here and walk the streets of Brighton Park every day. Nary a soul would go on camera – even anonymously.

Why? Some said they're living in fear and it's just not worth it.

Molina reached out to Chicago Police for a comment on the problem. Police said, "Units assigned to the area are paying special attention to the affected area."
And indeed, we saw several patrols of the area tonight.

The alderman said police and the Chicago Department of Transportation are working with his office to target the problem.

The blocks that were in the dark as of Thursday night are as follows:

--The 4200, 4300, and 4500 blocks of South Washtenaw Avenue;
--The 4200 and 4300 blocks of South Talman Avenue;
--The 4200 and 4300 blocks of South Rockwell Street;
--The 4200 and 4300 blocks of South Maplewood Avenue;
--The 4200, 4300, and 4400 blocks of South Campbell Avenue;
--The 2400 block of West Pope John Paul II Drive (43rd Street).

Ald. Lopez is urging residents to call his office and report lights that are out. He also wants residents to report any gang activity, and any known gang homes in neighborhood, so they can target problem at source.

Ald. Lopez's Brighton Park office is at (773) 823-1539, and his West Englewood office is at (773) 306-0839. For more ways to get in contact with his office, click here.

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