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Boystown stabbing leads to racial controversy
by Erica Demarest

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A late-night altercation in a 7-Eleven parking lot in Boystown has left one man in the hospital and a community concerned for its safety. The incident sparked a racial debate about whether the increased presence of South and West Side youth is linked to higher crime rates in Lakeview.

On June 18 at about 3 a.m., police were called to the 7-Eleven at 3407 N. Halsted. A 20-year-old South Side resident named Anthony Bledsoe had allegedly stabbed a 34-year-old man in the chest and outer thigh following an altercation in the parking lot. Bledsoe fled the scene and was apprehended by security guards at Hydrate nightclub, two blocks north, according to police dispatch.

The stabbing victim, whose name is being held for privacy, was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital and treated for serious, but non-fatal, stab wounds. He posted on Facebook that he's doing well following treatment.

Bledsoe was charged June 20 with felony aggravated battery, arraigned on June 24, and held on a $150,000 bond. He is still in police custody awaiting trial, which is set for July 15, according to Andrew Conklin at the Cook County State's Attorney's office.

In recent years, more and more young people from the South and West sides (which include Blacks and Latinos from lower-income backgrounds) have sought refuge in the increasingly affluent Boystown neighborhood. The youth cite the ability to be out in a safe environment and programs like the Broadway Youth Center as major draws.

However, they are not always welcome. Many residents claim the young people are responsible for increased violence and higher crime rates, and some even blame resultant racial tensions for the June 18 stabbing. Bledsoe is Black; the victim is Caucasian. Residents posted grievances on the Boystown Facebook page. One man said: "Mobs of delinquent teens are destroying an area many hard working citizens have created." Others advocated closing the Center on Halsted.

Max Bever, from the office of 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney, said the visiting youth aren't to blame. "When something bad happens, certainly people want to point a finger immediately or try to find one source," he said. "But as a neighborhood, we've been dealing with late-night activity, especially during warmer months, for decades." Bever insists the altercation was an isolated incident.

He said the 19th and 23rd police districts are working to place more foot and bicycle officers on the streets, and the North Halsted Business Alliance hired off-duty police officers to patrol Thursday through Sunday from midnight to 4 a.m. Bever urged people to be aware of their personal safety and surroundings.

Tunney's office supplies free safety whistles at 1057 W. Belmont Ave. and offers safety tips at:

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