Recently, a shooting took place at a Starbucks on Lawrence Avenue in Chicago, only a few blocks away from Wheaton in Chicago’s Uptown residence. The Record has investigated the crime rates in the neighborhoods around the city and neighborhoods most often visited by Wheaties. As the Record reported last spring, Wheaton College’s campus has ranked among the safest in the country and Wheaton was the 32nd safest city in America. When students leave campus to pursue an experiential education, they often face the realities of a more dangerous world outside of the “Wheaton Bubble.”
Last year, Chicago experienced its highest number of homicides since the early ‘90s, according to the New York Times, totalling 758 homicides at a rate of 10.3 per 100,000 people. Chicago accounted for 22 percent of the nationwide increase in murders throughout 2016, according to the Economist, and the numbers for 2017 only lag slightly behind last year’s devastating pace. The violence, however, is not spread evenly throughout the entire city, but affects Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods in varying ways.
The South Shore neighborhood, along with North Lawndale, Englewood and Austin have experienced far worse safety conditions following the spike in reported violence compared to the northern neighborhoods closer to the lake. Other popular neighborhoods for Wheaties to visit in Chicago have comparatively low crime rates similar to Uptown such as Lincoln Park, Logan Square and Wicker Park, Hyde Park, East Garfield Park and Pilsen on the Near West Side.
The Wheaton in Chicago program resides in Uptown, which ranks 33rd in violent crimes reported out of the 77 community areas in Chicago, according to the Chicago Police Department. In the last 12 months, 289 violent crimes were reported in Uptown compared with 2,014 in Austin on the West Side, the community with the highest number of crimes committed. Most students, however, do not work within the Uptown community area, but venture across the city for their internships. A number of students have worked within the South Lawndale community, which ranks 19th in violent crimes reported to the Chicago Police.
Junior Cristina Guevara is interning with the Lawndale Christian Health Center this semester and witnessed the reality behind the crime statistics up close. “Crime is real and there is no way to avoid that,” she reflected, but “Lawndale has become more its statistics . It’s now a place that I feel loved in and that I love being in.”
Wheaton in Chicago recently announced plans to move south to Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood, just south of Hyde Park and the University of Chicago. The neighborhood will reportedly add to the multicultural experience of the program while partnering with Sunshine Gospel Ministries, a community-focused ministry organization in Woodlawn that seeks to help community members thrive in their families, neighborhoods and churches. Woodlawn saw 487 violent crimes reported in the last 12 months and ranks 21st in the community areas of Chicago for violence.