CHICAGO — Marcellus Moore, a former member of the Vice Lords, has spent time in jail and on the streets of Chicago’s West Side.
He’s seen it all — poverty, crime and incarceration. But inside of the Firehouse Community Art Center in North Lawndale, he witnessed something he’d never seen before.
A Chicago mayor in the flesh, in his neighborhood.
“I want to actually hear what you think is going to make a difference in this community,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Lightfoot came to his neighborhood to hold a roundtable discussion on the city’s most pressing problem: violent crime.
“I’ve been here 37 years,” Moore said. “I have never met a mayor.”
For more than an hour, the mayor listened and took notes, then explained the city’s plan to deal with what is known as the public safety gap: a disparity that shows two-thirds of the City’s violent crime happens in just 15 of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods.
“They’re fighting an uphill battle right now,” said 40-year-old Princess Shaw.
Shaw attended the discussion with her 3-month-old daughter Chloe. The lifelong North Lawndale resident pressed the mayor to do more about nuisance businesses that erode the quality of life and create a creeping sense of unease in their neighborhood.
“If you get enough little things [done], it’ll make a big difference,” Shaw said.
North Lawndale, a neighborhood historically troubled by crime, is making progress. According to city statistics, shootings are down 43% and homicides have plunged 50% from this time last year compared to now.
“If we’re going to break this cycle — the grip of the street — We’ve got to play the long game,” Lightfoot said. “The long game is investing our way out of the problem. Not arresting our way out of the problem.”
For Moore, who said he’s felt ignored by city leaders most of his life, Lightfoot’s visit to North Lawndale was the first step toward a solution solving the issues faced by Chicagoans who live in neighborhoods like his.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Moore said. “To have someone come to your community with a sense of urgency that we need help.”