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Neighborhood Block Clubs Work To Block Crime

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Large signs can be seen at many corners along residential streets in Chicago, particularly on the South side. Signs for block clubs often outline the rules of the street, aim to keep neighborhoods safer, and block crime.

Stephen Watkins is the block club president for his neighborhood in the 8300 block of South Elizabeth Street.

"You know who should be here and who shouldn't be here," Watkins said.

Despite a robust neighborhood watch on his block, pain could be heard in Watkins' voice when he described what happened last summer.

"We had a person got shot on this block," he said. "It just hurt."

"Most of the troublemakers are born and bred on your block," said Betty Swanson, the block club president in the 7900 block of Carpenter Street. Swanson said her neighborhood block club dates back 30 years, claiming it was a model during the Daley era.  "Understanding each other and respecting each other. That's the key: respect," Swanson explained.

Swanson said she sits in peace on her porch, a sharp contrast to the violence that claimed her grandson's life, vowing to keep fighting.

"I come out and talk to these guys on the street. Most of the time they'll pack up and leave," she said.

"We are on the watch, we are looking out, and we are paying attention," said Selina White-Vicks, who launched a block club on South Bishop last year. The group just held its annual block party, but she says the goal is much more than having fun, saying the goal is to make sure to keep violence down in that neighborhood.

"People go, criminals especially, take the path of least resistance. They're going to go somewhere else," said Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. of the 21st Ward.

"Most people don't like eyes looking at them," said Watkins.

Block clubs can register with the Chicago Police Department. CBS 2 reached out to police repeatedly to find out how effective block clubs are, but police have not responded.

CBS 2 compared crime statistics for the three blocks mentioned in this story and could not find a measurable reduction in crime compared to neighboring blocks. Nevertheless, the folks in the neighborhoods mentioned are convinced the clubs are improving their neighborhoods.

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