ON A MISSION: Bertha Zagore, a member of the 400 Adams Block Club, is hoping to raise funds so that they can make improvements in an effort to fight crime. | Facebook

The 15 regular members of the 4000 Adams Block Club have seen crime transform their neighborhood. Now, they’re determined to reverse the transformation. 

The block club spans the block of Adams Street that runs between Pulaski Road and Karlov Avenue. Bertha Zagore, a retired educator and grant writer who has lived on the block long enough to remember when Sears was headquartered in’ North Lawndale, said that her club is responding to the area’s quality of life issues several fronts. 

On the one hand, they’ve collaborated with government agencies and departments, such as the Chicago Police Department and the Department of Street and Sanitation. On the other hand, they’re using their own time and money to clean up the block and fence off vacant lots. 

Zagore is preparing to set up an online fundraiser to raise $10,000 to fence off the vacant lots that haven’t been fenced off already and paint murals along the fences, among other beautification efforts. She said that she plans on launching the GoFundMe sometime in August. 

Throughout her 58 years on 4000 Adams, block clubs have come and gone, Zagore said. Her club started nine years ago and represents roughly half of the block’s households. She said that the club’s presence has been particularly critical. Since November 2018, she explained, crime in the area started to escalate. 

“We had people on vacant lots selling drugs, we had cars pulling up day and night,” Zagore recalled. “In January, we met with Ald. Jason Ervin and we met with the new 11th District commander. It was still going on two months later.” 

Zagore said that, to make matters worse, residents have witnessed people “defecating, urinating and having sex” in gangways and backyards.” 

Phyllis Hale, who served as the block club’s president until last summer, echoed Zagore’s account, adding that, at times, the situation has gotten so bad that residents were afraid to get in their cars. 

Hale said that the spike in drug-dealing alarmed the neighborhood, but they were not going to take the rampant criminality lying it down. The block club members came up with several strategies, such as establishing “phone trees” to keep everybody in the loop and to have as many people as possible call 911. Several households on the block already have surveillance cameras. And the block club has already fenced off three vacant lots on the north side of Adams. 

“One of the neighbors bought the concrete, somebody else bought the panels, another person bought the pole,” Hale said. “Once we got what we needed, we just put it together.”

The block club is also in the process of fencing off another large vacant lot that sits opposite Hale’s house. She said that their long-term plan is to build a gate on the Adams Street side and use it for block parties.

Bobby Wright, who lived on the block for the past 30 years said that the fencing has slowed the drug traffic. Zagore said that she hopes the block improves even more after the club implements more improvements with the help of the fundraising money. 

“Most of us on this block are retired people from the education and medical fields,” Zagore said.  “We are senior citizens and we’re trying to keep the properties up. And we’re just trying to finish our lives decently.”

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Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...