They are a force to be reckoned with: a growing block club with the goal of reclaiming their West Humboldt park neighborhood.
The 1000 and 1100 N. Monticello Ave. block club says the problem was drug dealers loitering in front of their homes, discarding needles in their yards and forcing them to stay inside.
“It was like a drive-through here,” said Patricia Carrillo, the block club president.
She says the group started four years ago, and its members began knocking on doors and asking for support. Those neighbors then started putting up surveillance cameras and recording drug transactions.
Elida Carrizoza said the situation began to improve, but drew threats from the drug dealers who once operated with impunity.
“I have dealt with them in front of my house, and I have come up to them, and I have been video recording them right in front of their faces, and they leave right away," she said.
In addition to cleaning up the drug trade, the block club has also been busy cleaning up their environment, organizing planting days and bringing fruit trees to be planted for everyone to enjoy.
The club is even working on an app that shows where the trees are located so neighbors can access them.
One of the club’s proudest accomplishments is clearing a vacant lot and turning it into a park, complete with a garden, a firepit and fencing designed to keep the lot from becoming an escape route for drug dealers who scatter when they see police.
“We have to close this,” says Carrillo, who is lobbying the city to donate that once vacant lot to the club.
Randy Sadler, the vice president, is looking for ways to work with police and the city to listen to the neighborhood's needs and give residents a voice.
“The neighborhood has been ravaged by crime, by violence, and enough is enough,” Sadler said. "We have to stand together in unity so that we can see a positive change in our community.”
The club, which now includes blocks on Central Park and North Ridgeway avenues, hopes to do the same with a bank-owned, abandoned building. The block club members say they want to send a message, not only to the drug dealer, but to the city itself.
“We are coming out,” Sadler said. “We are going to stand; we are going to walk; we are going to support each other.”
Jeremy Olson is the secretary for another block club on North Ridgeway that works closely with the Monticello block club.
“The reality is you are seeing a community come together and saying ‘no, we take ownership of our neighborhood,’" Olsen said. “We know that our neighborhood is beautiful.”
The Monticello block club is now more than 100 members strong and is proud to be a diverse group of neighbors.