From: Chicago Reporter December 1999


The murder of 11-year-old Ryan Harris in July 1998 became national news when two boys, ages 7 and 8, were charged with first-degree murder; the charges later were dropped. It also focused attention on the troubled South Side neighborhood of Englewood.

In 1998, the Englewood Police District, which includes Englewood and West Englewood, recorded 56 murders, the city’s second highest total. Combined, the communities are about 99 percent black, and in 1990, about 36 percent of their residents lived below the federal poverty line.

Earlier this year (1999), Mayor Richard M. Daley announced a $256 million package of improvements, including a new Kennedy-King College, housing, parks and job training. In November, President Bill Clinton came to the neighborhood to push his New Markets initiative.

But there are some problems that economic development alone can’t fix. Englewood needs help repairing its human infrastructure, and the city is coming up short in two critical areas: mental health services and community policing.

Mental health experts say crisis intervention and counseling services are sorely needed in Englewood. And the Englewood Police District isn’t meeting the official goals for community policing laid out by the Chicago Police Department.

Mayor Richard M. Daley called it a new beginning. Flanked by an array of community leaders at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church on Oct. 6, Daley ticked off the details of $256 million in public funds to be poured into the South Side’s Englewood community over the next four years. A new, $150 million Kennedy-King College will anchor a revitalized Halsted Street shopping district. An additional $2.7 million will improve local parks and create new green spaces, and $37 million will build 417 mixed-income homes. Another $12.5 million will repair crumbling streets, and the city will fund job training.

A month later, President Bill Clinton came to Englewood to praise those plans and present some of his own. Clinton touted a $25 million private fund aimed at attracting investors to Chicago’s impoverished neighborhoods. The announcements came as welcome news to residents who have watched Englewood buckle under the pressure of too much crime and too few jobs.

But there are some problems that economic development alone can’t fix. Sixteen months after the murder of 11-year-old Ryan Harris, the hurt inflicted on the people of Englewood is far from healed. Harris’ violent death, the arrest of two neighborhood boys, ages 7 and 8, for the killing, then the subsequent admission by prosecutors that the children could not have committed the crime, have reopened painful psychological wounds for many and created new trauma for others. Needed services, such as crisis intervention and counseling for both adults and children, are in short supply in Englewood, an investigation by The Chicago Reporter shows. Residents received few offers of help as they tried to cope with the tragedy. Most came from the neighborhood’s own community organizations, not outside sources, the Reporter found.

While schools, churches and neighborhood organizations have worked to reduce violence in the community, experts argue that mental health issues are just as important. Englewood’s chronic violence has, in some cases, led children and adults to become violent themselves. For others, it has made fear, anger or depression a way of life. Years of living with violence can foster other social problems, including drug addiction and unemployment, said Maisha Hamilton-Bennett, a psychologist who has spent 30 years working primarily in Chicago’s low-income, black neighborhoods. "When you look at all of those social problems, all of those people would do better if they had counseling," she said. "The violence will not stop until people have a sense of the value of their lives and the lives around them." Hamilton-Bennett still counsels one of the two boys accused in the murder and his family. Once a good student, the boy—now 9—no longer likes going to school, and his grades have dropped, said his mother, Sonja Crawford. Family members say they now talk less together and argue more. While the boy was under suspicion, his maternal grandmother, Rosetta Crawford, and her family feared they would be shot or their home firebombed by angry neighbors. That fear lingers today. "We were stared at, we were talked about, fingers pointed—and you say it’s all over?"

Daley’s Oct. 6 announcements about jobs and housing were almost insulting, she said. "How come you couldn’t do this before this stuff happened with the 7- and 8-year-old?" Rosetta Crawford asked. "If it hadn’t ever happened, [Daley would] have never been in Englewood." Such resentment is simmering among black Chicagoans, said Andre M. Grant, one of the attorneys representing the boy’s family in their $100 million civil lawsuit against the city, police and county prosecutors. "The leaders in this town do not have their fingers on the pulse of what is happening in the community," Grant said. "They are one police shooting away from this town exploding."

Help Wanted
In the months after the Harris murder, members of the Greater Englewood Community and Family Task Force, a policy advocacy group, met weekly, and held about 10 community meetings and press conferences. They enlisted William Floyd, director of the Englewood Mental Health Center, to lead a "mental health debriefing," giving people a chance to "vent," Floyd said. The agency, which has a staff of 15, is housed at the city-run Englewood Neighborhood Health Center, 641 W. 63rd St. It serves 250 to 350 "seriously mentally ill, emotionally disturbed" adults each year, Floyd said. Floyd also went door to door with others to talk to people near the crime scene. Two of the community meetings drew about 200 people each, recalled task force Chairman John Paul Jones. Dozens from the area had seen the girl’s body before police arrived, he said. But the Chicago Department of Public Health did not send in any additional staff to assist in the crisis, said Constance Williams-Lake, division chief of the department’s Division of Mental Health. The current staff from Englewood "went above and beyond" their normal workload, she said. No families asked for counseling, Floyd said. "I don’t know to what extent people who are traumatized daily feel like the system is going to do something to help them," he said.

It was a far cry from the follow-up at the Ida B. Wells public housing development in 1994 after 5-year-old Eric Morse was pushed from a 14th-floor window, said Hamilton-Bennett, who helped organize black psychologists to counsel residents. The Morse death triggered a large-scale effort by the Chicago Housing Authority. Carol Adams, a business consultant who was then CHA director of resident programs, said "hundreds" attended daily meetings with psychologists for a week after the death.

From 1990 through the current fiscal year, the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Office of Mental Health has provided $682.8 million to 55 Chicago government and non-profits to deliver mental health services. The two based in Englewood, the city’s mental health clinic and the non-profit Englewood Community Health Organization, have received a combined $39.2 million during the decade. The state does not keep a detailed breakdown of where the dollars go by neighborhood, said Larry Sobeck, bureau chief of fiscal support and budget development for the Office of Mental Health. It has been more than 10 years since the state completed such a report, he said. State resources are not "deployed optimally," said Tom Simpatico, bureau chief of Chicago Network Operations for the Office of Mental Health. But meeting the mental health needs of low-income, high-crime communities is just one challenge facing the Mental Health Service System Planning Council for Greater Chicago, a 50-member task force of government and community leaders created in September. To make matters worse, services provided by the Englewood Community Health Organization have not been adequate, Sobeck said. State reports show the agency served just more than half of the 2,085 clients expected to receive crisis counseling in fiscal year 1999. In June, the state cut $936,654 from the agency’s $4.1 million contract. Robin Henry, the agency’s executive director since late October, said both sides could have communicated better. But she said new staff and more training will help solve the problem. "The state and the agency dropped the ball for the clients," she said. "I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to address all of their programmatic concerns." The state later awarded the money cut from the agency’s contract to the non-profit Community Mental Health Council at 8704 S. Constance Ave. in Calumet Heights. Dr. Carl C. Bell, president and chief executive officer, said his agency has supplemented psychiatric emergency services at Englewood’s St. Bernard Hospital, 326 W. 64th St. "You want people to be in an environment they know, an environment they’re comfortable with," Bell said. "And if people live in Englewood, they should be able to get services in Englewood." The city Health Department’s 16 mental health centers spent $15 million last year, including $802,207 at the center directed by Floyd. About $4.5 million came from city coffers, the rest from state and federal grants. This year, the department hired clinical therapists at five of its eight comprehensive health clinics, which provide medical care but don’t specialize in mental health, said Commissioner Sheila Lyne.

Emotional Wounds
While Englewood murder rates fell 38 percent from 1990 to 1998, twice as many people were killed in 1998 in the Englewood Police District, which includes Englewood and West Englewood, than the citywide district average. Many in the community have worked to fight those odds. "We’ve been in crisis for a long time," said Pamela L. Dominguez, a community service aide for Metropolitan Family Services, 3843 W. 63rd St. She joined the Englewood task force when it was founded last year. And Sharon Bean, principal of William A. Hinton Elementary, 644 W. 71st St., regularly organizes parades at the school to celebrate children who have earned good grades. "That’s a different kind of mental health," she said.

The Chicago Board of Education employs 2,167 nurses, psychiatrists and psychologists, social workers and counselors for the system’s 591 schools. Each of Englewood’s 18 public schools has at least one full-time counselor. The other staff each spend 1.5 to 2.6 days a week, on average, at each school. Assignments are based on the number of students and other factors, said Sue Gamm, chief specialized services officer for the Chicago Public Schools. "I’d love to have a nurse at every school, I’d love to have a full-time social worker at every school and several more in the high schools," Gamm said. But adding just one to every school in the system would cost $30 million, she said.

Since 1994, the school board has funded its Crisis Intervention/Violence Prevention program, a six-member team, and in 1996 it began Interfaith Community Partnerships, religious leaders who respond to emergencies. Last year, the groups helped counsel students, teachers and staff following about 1,300 incidents citywide, said Lourdes B. Afable, director of the Crisis Intervention/Violence Prevention and Internship Programs. For four to six weeks after the Harris murder, Afable’s staff visited at least four of the neighborhood’s 18 schools and alerted social workers and principals they were available if needed, she said. Counseling and other services also were offered, through their lawyers, to both of the boys charged in the case, as well as their families, she said. "We were there for the kids, the two kids, and the rest of the kids who were bothered by the case," she said. "I know every resource in the public schools was provided."   But grandmother Rosetta Crawford said no one in her family ever received any offers for such help. And G. Flint Taylor, an attorney with the People’s Law Office, who represents the younger boy’s family, said he wasn’t aware of the offers. Both Taylor and retired Illinois Appellate Court Justice R. Eugene Pincham, one of the older boy’s lawyers, said the families would have welcomed such help.

Rising Need
Bell of the Community Mental Health Council said Englewood’s children are far too familiar with violence. In a 1992 survey of 203 students at one of Englewood’s four high schools, Bell found that at least 70 percent reported that a friend or family member had been raped, robbed, shot, stabbed, severely beaten and/or killed. Half said they had witnessed a shooting, stabbing or death, according to the study. Children in violent communities typically do not receive appropriate counseling, Bell said. And some adults don’t want to be labeled "crazy," said Dr. Edwin Pratt, the Englewood Community Health Organization’s medical director. "You can’t treat people unless they want to be treated," he said. For two months after the murder, at least 60 people called a crisis line at Englewood Cares Outreach Ministries Inc., a crisis intervention and counseling agency at 6005 S. Ashland Ave., said its founder and director, the Rev. Phillita T. Carney. The tragedy triggered painful flashbacks, she said. "One woman had been holding this in for 24 years, the murder of her stepmom. Another woman had witnessed the sexual abuse of her two children and never said anything. The physical wounds you can heal—the emotional ones go much deeper." And those most in need may not realize it, said Dr. Gary Slutkin, director of the non-profit Chicago Project for Violence Prevention. Experiencing violence often leads to feelings of isolation, depression, despair and hopelessness, he said. People grow numb. "The community’s ability to respond itself is impaired by the chronic nature of the violence," he said.

Floyd would like more of his programs to focus on prevention, he said. There is no child psychiatrist on staff at the Englewood Mental Health Center. Sixth Ward Alderman Freddrenna M. Lyle said she will lobby for more city dollars for such services next year. "If we don’t deal with the problems the people are facing," she said, "we are going to face the same problems every 20 years when the buildings fall down."

The family of the older boy charged in the Harris case thought moving out of Englewood would be a solution. They lived just two blocks from the murder scene. "Our medical experts told us this family would never heal in Englewood," said Grant, their attorney. "The healing couldn’t even start to begin." In August, they moved to Auburn Gresham. But that hasn’t erased the pain, said Rosetta Crawford. She misses talking with her neighbors, watching the children play in the yard and visiting with family. "You’ve got a brand-new house, you think you’d be satisfied," she said, a tear running down her cheek. "I loved my house [in Englewood]. Those were my happy times."

Crime Waves
Community policing was introduced in Englewood and four other pilot districts in 1993, and expanded citywide in the fall of 1994. While crime in the pilot districts declined 4 percent from 1993 to 1995, other districts posted a 5.8 percent drop. In Englewood, crime fell 10.6 percent in the three years leading up to community policing but rose 3.3 percent in the program’s first three years. Crime dropped 5.1 percent from 1996 to 1998.

Comm. policing graph.gif (1836 bytes)Notes: The pilot districts were Englewood, Austin, Rogers Park, Morgan Park/Beverly and Marquette. The citywide average is based on the number of crimes divided by the number of districts. Only index crimes were analyzed. They are murder, criminal sexual assault, aggravated assault, robbery, theft, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson.Source: Chicago Police Department, analyzed by The Chicago Reporter

Crime by Beat
Crimes in the Englewood Police District decreased by 3.7 percent from 1993, when community policing began, to 1998. The largest decrease—nearly 47 percent—came in Beat 715, which had the fewest crimes in 1998. Beat 725 saw a 13.2 percent increase from 1993 to 1998, and in 1998 suffered more crimes than any of the district’s other 14 beats.

Dist 7 beat map.gif (5224 bytes)

Notes: Only index crimes were analyzed. They are murder, criminal sexual assault, aggravated assault, robbery, theft, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson. Source: Chicago Police Department, analyzed by The Chicago Reporter.

High Exposure
In 1992, half the 203 students surveyed at an Englewood high school reported they saw family members or friends stabbed, shot or killed. Nearly 47 percent said they had been shot at themselves.

HS students graph.gif (2289 bytes)

Notes: Survey of students, ages 13 to 18. The high school, one of four in Englewood, was not identified to protect the students’ privacy.Source: Esther J. Jenkins and Dr. Carl C. Bell, “Violence Among Inner City High School Students and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” 1994.


ENGLEWOOD Alumnus Cyberspot