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On Ferdinand Street, Kids Walk To School Surrounded By Drug Dealers

CHICAGO (CBS)--Drug deals every step of the way. How could this happen on a street that's always under the watchful eye of Chicago police? On a street designated as a Safe Passage for Chicago school kids?

It's all happening on one block on the West Side where CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards was warned not to go.

He did go, to tell its story.

Welcome to West Ferdinand Street.

It was 3:00 p.m. on a Friday, and a silver sedan pulled up looking to score drugs--and does -- just that quickly. Only seconds separate the drive up from the drug deal.

Drugs deals in public that anyone can witness. They did it right in front of CBS 2's hovering drone.

"Hey! What the **** y'all recording man?" one man yelled who noticed the CBS 2 Investigator on his turf.

The story of hustling and homicides is narrated by the crackle of police radio:


West Ferdinand Street is located just north of the 290 — the Ike. The heroin highway that connects the suburbs to the West Side. It's just north of Garfield Park, just off Pulaski.

"That may be the worst I've ever seen," said State Representative La Shawn Ford of the drug dealing.

Ford, now a mayoral candidate, thought he'd found a sweet real estate deal on Ferdinand Street, until he saw all the dealers.

"Oh my goodness,"  Ford recalls.

The CBS 2 Investigators hooked up Ford's car with a camera. He pulled up to Ferdinand, stopped to pick up a flavored ice, and just like that you can see the pusher drop the dough and pick it back up.

Neighbors on Ferdinand Street are naturally reluctant to answer their doors, but one resident invited us in. She said she watches the drug commerce from her window every day. The home smelled of Salisbury steak and cigarette smoke. The dusty, old davenport in the living room provided front row access to the drama outside.

A spit-shined white BMW SUV pulled up, got served and sealed the deal with a double fist bump.

Back on the street we told another resident about our investigation into drug dealing on Ferdinand.

"You got a good one, then don't you?" said a woman, who conceded she was scared but. "I'm too old to run."

"Police know what they doin',"  she said. "They got a camera right there."

There is a working police camera on the block. Drug deals take place under its watchful eye. In one, the dealer wants to make sure a large bill is legit, so he checked for a water mark.

"Anytime you have a camera, it normally eliminates that type of activity," Rep. Ford said.

Not here. Not camera 4023. One can only imagine what it's seen.

"They [the police] just drive by and look at them," a woman said.

Here a dealer runs across the street, does an apparent drug deal and then runs back across Ferdinand as a Chicago Police Department cruiser drives through.

One young man says he's lucky. He has a factory job.

"Anybody would rather be working than selling drugs," he said. "You can go to jail for selling drugs. You can't go to jail for working at the factory."

Ferdinand is also full of kids.

It's a designated Safe Passage – a safe zone, manned with workers, for CPS school kids to travel to and from school.

The program started in 2009. Since then, in this area, there have been: 1041 narcotics reports, 290 batteries, 72 assaults, and 5 homicides.

The CBS 2 Investigators requested an on-camera interview with CPS Superintendent Janice Jackson, but CPS declined. CBS 2 even sent her team a small sampling of our footage.

They responded by saying we were likely there on off-hours. We can say definitively, on many occasions we were there during Safe Passage hours – when kids are going home from school.

"Every day, I tell them they are not getting nowhere," one resident said she told the drug dealers. "They getting killed."

Exactly four days later, on Oct, 21, three men were shot – one fatally.

Ford describes it as terrorism.

"When you're isolated in your homes, that's what you see in war-torn areas."

CPS provided the following statement:

"Safe Passage has been an incredibly successful initiative that has effectively kept students safe in neighborhoods throughout Chicago. The footage provided is not an accurate portrayal of the Safe Passage route, as the conduct shown is a combination of activity occurring off the route and at unspecified times when the route does not appear to be in operation. While the negative activity does not appear to have occurred on active Safe Passage routes, we are committed to working with the school community to determine if any adjustments could be made to provide additional support to students."

CBS 2 Investigators returned to Ferdinand after receiving the statement to find Safe Passage workers posted where they weren't previously. One worker told CBS 2 they started working at that location "this week."

So CPS said no changes were made, but workers on Ferdinand said changes were made. That's another question CBS 2 plans to ask CPS Superintendent Janice Jackson about.

When this story originally aired on Monday, 11/12/18,  CBS 2 may have misidentified a mug shot.   We have since removed that photo.

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