By Tim Hadac
Southwest Chicago Post
Apparently fed up with what they see as the inability—or perhaps unwillingness—of the criminal justice system to rid their neighborhood of street-walking sex workers, a handful of Archer Heights residents are taking matters into their own hands.
“I have been crying all day and really don't know where else to turn for help,” said Lori Vrablic, a resident of the 4800 block of South Keating. “When I walk out my back door, I see 49th and Cicero. About 80 percent of the time I go out, there is a hooker working on the corner.
“I have confronted many of them, videotaped them, taken pictures, called 911, yelled at them, made them lose business by screaming at the johns, and just about anything else you can imagine,” she continued. “The illegal activity on this corner is rampant. I won't even go into the drug deals. I'm really physically ill over this and was almost viciously attacked twice now while I'm out there videotaping them.”
Vrablic said she sees much of the crime because she is home a lot as she recovers from a motorcycle crash nearly a year ago, in which she says she broke 41 bones in her body.
“Today I had to run [away from sex workers and pimps] with pins and rods that hold my spine together,” she added. “I'm never supposed to run again, but I was in fear of my life.”
Vrablic has organized a number of her neighbors into a South Keating Awareness Group to share information and organize action.
For her part, Vrablic has—among other things--made a banner warning sex workers that they are not welcome in the area, and has affixed it to a fence near 49th and Cicero. She also has purchased an electronic megaphone with a loud siren sound to disrupt sex workers and their customers.
|Lori Vrablic with the sign she made and posted.|
The Archer Heights Civic Association has for decades made elimination of prostitution in the area—especially along Cicero Avenue—a top priority.
Back in April, AHCA members and representatives of the neighboring Vittum Park Civic League quizzed CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson at a public meeting about their concerns. At the meeting, Chicago’s top cop vowed to work with Chicago Lawn (8th) District Commander Ronald Pontecore and his senior staff to “put together a plan to try to [eradicate prostitution on Cicero Avenue] once and for all…so that the next time I come back here, I want to hear you clapping for the job that we have done.”
Three months later, neighbors say they are still waiting to see Johnson’s plan.
“The leadership we routinely receive from Commander Pontecore is exemplary, and the dedication of our Eighth District police officers on the frontlines is second to none,” said AHCA President Thomas S. Baliga. “But this is clearly a problem that simply can’t be solved by the limited amount of resources a single district has.”
District police have clearly increased arrests of sex workers and others along the strip—and there has been the occasional small-scale sting operation from units outside the district, but some residents say it’s not nearly enough.
“I’m tired of driving around in the neighborhood, seeing these prostitutes and calling 911 on them again and again,” Baliga said. “I’m also concerned about law-abiding neighbors who are so fed up they take matters into their own hands.
Someone is going to get hurt—or worse—and then it will be
on the hands of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, ultimately.
“We need Supt. Johnson to step up and deliver on his promise,” he concluded. “At this point, I can’t even imagine clapping for the job he has done. We need his help—the ‘once and for all’ plan he talked about--and we need it now.”
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