Drilling down

Beat meetings have been a wonderful resource to us in our neighborhood research (see also 03/21/2009 post). But there is more homework to do…

We continue to monitor crime statistics and reports around the properties that we have singled out. I basically have shortcuts in my browser so that I am only one click away from this information (i.e. CLEARMAP and Every Block Chicago).

Online or paper statistics are sometimes hard to interpret without having the feet on the ground backup research. This insight led us to drive by the various properties at a relatively frequent schedule, at various times of the day and night. Thanks to our friend Ann who joint us a couple of times, we quickly learned what to look out for.


The level of trash in the street, the alley, the yards or vacant lots is a very good indicator of community care, involvement and pride. Some property owners got so fed up with picking up the trash that gets dumped into their parkway or yard, that they tie a trash bag to their fence in hope of passers by dropping their litter into the bag, rather than on the ground. And it seems to work!


There are certain categories of trash (yes, this becomes a real science!). The bottles of booze on the ground or empty beer can collections were at an impressive scale in some locations. I quickly learned to spot drug paraphernalia, such as tiny Ziploc bags. Not what you want to see, at least not in great quantities. We also learned to check the power lines. A pair of shoes over the lines is an advertising sign for new or established drug sale operations.

Saturday night (live)

What we observe during our daytime drive-bys may have nothing to do with what is going on at night – in particular a weekend night, and specifically a warm midsummer weekend night! We’ve been advised over and over again to check in sometimes after midnight on a hot Saturday night – Sunday morning. That is exactly what we did to gauge our comfort level with the activities (or lack thereof) and the noise level.

The interesting thing is, we’ve found that the activities at night generally aren’t that much different than during the day.  The street corners that had groups of people hanging out during the day had large groups of people at night.  The streets that were quiet in the daytime were largely quiet at night.  The difference was the brazenness of the drug activity – rather than standing huddled on a corner, the person is now yelling in your car window about that offer you can’t refuse.  The thought crossed our minds that we might get picked up by the police for attempting to buy drugs.  It would be interesting to explain our way out of that one.

Services and Amenities


What services and amenities are available at what distance? To find out, we prepared maps with a quarter- and half-mile radius circle and plotted the various facilities within those circles. Another easy resource is Walk Score web site that helped us to determine and rate the walkability of any given location.

To back up our research findings, we walked the ‘hoods and looked at the bike routes. We visited the nearby stores, restaurants, coffee shops, other facilities, amenities and transit stops. The more we drilled down, the clearer the picture of the neighborhood. And we have been drilling now for over one year…


About Marcus de la fleur

Marcus is a Registered Landscape Architect with a horticultural degree from the School of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield, UK. He developed a landscape based sustainable pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. in 2002, and has expanded his skill set to building science. Starting in 2009, Marcus applied the newly acquired expertise to the deep energy retrofit of his 100+ year old home in Chicago.

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