South Side business owners say recent rumors of an increase in gang violence are hurting area businesses.
What was once one of the South Side’s most popular restaurants says it is struggling as customers voice conerns about safety in the popular stretch of 79th Street after rumors of gang violence sprouted on social media.
Josephine Wade, who owns Jesphine Wade’s Captain’s Hard Times, said she once drew more than 200 people each day for breakfast, but on Friday, there was only one.
“I’ve never had a shooting, I’ve never had a break-in, I’ve never had a car broken into,” she said.
Wade blames internet postings threatening retaliation for the gang-related shooting of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee.
Earlier this week, rumors of an increase in gang violence in response to the young boy’s “targeted” shooting prompted an alert from an area school and forced Comcast to reschedule appointments in the area.
And Wade isn’t the only one who says the rumored violence is hurting business. Even franchises say they’re seeing a drop in customers in the area.
The President of the Black McDonald’s Owners Association, Derrick Taylor, said he’s not sure how to fix the problem.
“We need more businesses here, we need better education, we need better sports programs in our public schools,” he said. “We know if the kids are idle, they will do something we don’t want them to do.”
The strip of 79th was once the commercial heart of the Chatham neighborhood with restaurants on almost every block. Now, residents say they’re afriad to walk to the streets.
“My mother is 98 years of age, and we talk about,” said concerned resident Frances Gilmour. “She says, ‘I used to love 79th Street but I don’t know, can I go over there?’ and I say ‘No, you can’t go over there.’ They would attack her just because she is old.”
Ald. Roderick Sawyer says despite the internet postings, the area is still a “safe neighborhood.”
“It’s not happening here,” he said. “This is a safe venue.”
Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said police have no intelligence of an imminent threat or gang attack in the area and have not issued an alert.
Officials have stressed that Tyshawn’s murdered was a “targeted incident,” but does appear to be gang-related. Guglielmi acknowledged social media chatter about the Tyshawn Lee case and the potential for retaliation but said police have heavy saturation in the area.