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Hidden War: Crime and the Tragedy of Public Housing In Chicago

NCJ Number
Date Published
247 pages

Based on resident surveys and observations by the researchers, this book provides a portrait of life in three Chicago housing projects over a period of 4 years and explains why efforts to improve life in these projects have continued to fail.


Focusing on three housing projects--Rockwell Gardens, Henry Homer Homes, and Harold Ickes Homes--the authors interviewed residents, community leaders, and the staff of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) in the mid-1990's to the latter 1990's. Since the late 1970's, the high-rise developments of the CHA have been dominated by gang violence and drugs, creating a sense of hopelessness among residents. Despite a lengthy "war" on crime, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, the CHA has been unable to reduce the violence that makes life intolerable in the CHA housing projects. Most families living in the three developments are headed by African-American single mothers. The book discusses the dilemmas facing women and children who are often victims or witnesses of violent crime, and yet are dependent on the perpetrators and their drug-based economy. The CHA--plagued by financial scandals, managerial incompetence, and inconsistent funding--is no match for the gang-dominated social order. Even well-intentioned initiatives such as the recent effort to demolish and "revitalize" the worst developments apparently have been ineffective in combating crime. The drastic changes leave many vulnerable families facing an uncertain future. Efforts to improve life in these housing projects are typically short-term, poorly funded, and often ill-suited to the nature of the problem. This book is a testimony to how ill-designed, albeit well-intentioned, efforts can often make things worse. 10 photographs, 5 figures, 2 tables, appended description of research methods, chapter notes, a 114-item bibliography, and a subject index

Date Published: January 1, 2000