By day, Palmer Park in Roseland hums with life: children splashing in the pool, teenagers shooting baskets and politicians holding news conferences with television crews in tow.
That all changes when the sun goes down. Residents of this struggling neighborhood on the far South Side say that when night falls, the prudent hurry home, leaving the bold and the reckless to roam the dark. On a recent steamy evening, the park was emptying out except for 10 young men in baggy pants, white T-shirts and ball caps cocked to the side. They were perched on the top of a bench when out of the deepening dusk emerged an even larger pack of men. The two groups warily regarded each other. No one said a word until a big man with a deep voice stepped forward to break the tense silence.
“Hey fellas, what’s up?” he said, extending his hand to each man on the bench. “I’m Pastor Greg Livingston. We’re from the Mission of Faith Baptist Church.”
“What are y’all doing out here?” one of the men on the bench asked. “We’re God’s foot patrol,” the minister replied. “So many people being killed lately, we’re looking to see if the police are out here, if they have a presence.” As the two groups separated, he invited the men to visit church.
Mr. Livingston, 48, and a group of men from his church started their walking patrol three weeks ago, just days after Mayor Rahm Emanuel appeared in the neighborhood to announce an increased police presence. Mr. Livingston, who told the mayor that more bike and foot patrols would still be needed, said he had grown impatient “waiting for the powers that be to step up to the plate and do something about all the violence.”
The patrol illustrates how frustrated residents of Chicago’s toughest pockets of crime have become. Mr. Livingston said he and his congregation were “feeling our way right now,” trying to find the most effective response to the violence. The response must include jobs and grocery stores, he said, and must address “other basic quality of life issues.”