For more than eight months, residents of one Lynwood subdivision have dealt with vandals terrorizing the neighborhood.
Cars have been keyed, barbeques have been flipped over, garden hoses have been slashed and bottles of urine have been left on the back porches of the new subdivision of two single family homes and three duplexes.
With one exception, all of the homes are minority-owned.
"It’s just so many things that have been happening. It’s hard to keep track of," said resident Claire Epps, who moved into this community in far south suburban Lynwood last year with her husband A.J. "It’s getting hard for me to try and maintain my composure out here. It’s always been such a peaceful place to live and now of a sudden we have to watch our backs."
The Epps feel especially vulnerable. Vandals the other day covered their backyard fence with spray-painted graffiti. Among the disorderly jumble of images and pictures are three letters tagged twice on the fence: "KKK."
“You feel like you’re marked,” said A.J. Epps.
"My stomach. It was just in knots. I haven’t really been able to rest, because I know someone’s been lurking on my property at night," said his wife. "I just feel like I’m being targeted because I’m a black woman."
Their next-door neighbor, Allen Matlock, had two tires of his car slashed. He has yet to replace the tires, fearing he'll be targeted again. He says he can think of no other explanation for this neighborhood vandalism other than it being a hate crime spree.
"I don’t see any other reason. Because everyone here is friendly," he said.
Police took a report in the neighborhood after the graffiti incident at the Epps household. And Eugene Williams, the village's mayor of 26 years, went to The Medals of Lynwood to inspect things for himself.
"There’s no KKK problem in Lynwood," said Williams, who happens to be black as well. "That’s just some vandals that need to be spanked."
"How can he be sure. What makes him say that?" replied Claire Epps. "He can’t reassure us that this won’t happen to me again. And I’m just not feeling secure in my home right now, and I need some help."
The community's sole, white homeowner agrees with his neighbor. He says police need to beef up their presence in the sub-division until they make an arrest.
"That’s what I hope. They put squads out here and make the people see that we’re fighting back," said Mike Young.