The intersection of 42nd Street and Post Road sits in the middle of a police “hot spot,” meaning that it has one of the highest crime rates in the city. A lot of the problems center around the many low-income apartments in the area. The few businesses that are open are generally run down. Everything looks gray.
The crime and violence of this area extend far beyond it, according to six youth who live or grew up within two miles of the intersection. Most have witnessed crimes in their neighborhoods, and most of their families have been affected by crime in some way – home break-in, car break-in, domestic violence, robbery. Some have family members who have been arrested or involved in crime. Some have lost friends and relatives.
Still, most of these teenagers do the same things that all kids do — hang out with friends, go to the movies, play video games, go to the mall. Most, however, don’t travel far from their homes, and several stay indoors most of the time.
When asked about their long-range goals, almost everyone first responded with dreams of playing professional basketball or football. However, when pressed, more thoughtful aspirations emerged. Some excerpts from those conversations follow.
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Diamond Rolle, 14, lives on the far-Eastside but attends Shortridge Magnet High School for Law and Public Policy, almost 10 miles away. She would love to move to a safer neighborhood.
I have four brothers and four sisters, a mom and a dad. I was raised in a very respectful way. We often keep to ourselves. I really don’t talk to my neighbors, and if I do it’s a ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ and that’s it.
The street I live on, it’s quiet at times, but at times it’s kind of loud and rough. From my porch I have seen people fighting, yelling at one another, conflicts, altercations. I’ve seen people breaking into houses and people selling illegal drugs.
My house was broken into.
I think my life would be different if I lived in a different neighborhood. I would feel safer. I would move to I don’t know where, but I would love to move to a safer environment.
Some of my goals are to graduate high school, go on to college, become a lawyer and live happily ever after.
I feel like I can accomplish these goals.
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Emoni Smith, 14, attends Harshman Magnet Middle School for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and World Languages, more than 10 miles from her home. She lives with her parents and three siblings and has no problem with her neighborhood.
My goals are either to become a chef or a basketball player. I want to be able to cook when I get older and won’t have to have nobody cook for me. And I love basketball and I want to be on TV!
My neighborhood is quiet. Nothing really happens. Sometimes I’ve seen a couple of people get pulled over and I’ve seen a dog get thrown out of a car.
I’ve witnessed two break-ins in people’s houses, but I talked to police and I don’t think they caught them yet. Somebody broke into my mama’s car and stole my sister’s wallet.
I would probably say that my neighborhood is safe but could be safer. It’s just that the little kids be terrorizing stuff and busting windows and stuff like that.
I don’t really stay in my neighborhood ’cause there’s nobody to see there. I go to my friend’s neighborhood, or we’ll go like Downtown to the visit other places.
I wouldn’t move because I’ve been in the house that I live in since I was 2. If I would move, I would like to move into a two-story house because I’m tired of one story.
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Michael Harris, 17, is a senior at John Marshall Community High School. A good student, he’s looking forward to being one of the youngest in his graduating class. His goal is to be a graphic designer.
My family, it’s like I’m living with half of them. My mom, me, my sister and my brother, we live in like 42nd and Post. The rest of my family is in Arkansas, and I visit there like every summer sometimes. I grew up there.
I’m just a gentleman. I treat people with respect. I grew up like that.
I’d describe my neighborhood as peaceful sometimes but dangerous in a way. When I look outside, it’d be like peaceful and nobody’s out, but when it comes to nighttime, things happen and police come out.
I just protect my family and have a peaceful mind. Like I want to help the community, but my brother, he gets into trouble a lot. I try to help him, but he don’t want to listen to me.
For me, I don’t care, I’m going straight to college. My mom, my dad, my sister and my brother, they never graduated from college. My brother, he never made it from high school.
I’m going to IU because they gave me this scholarship for a full ride. I don’t have to pay anything, just for my personal items.
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Prince Michael William, 19, lives with his mother and little brother and attends John Marshall. He is a devoted Michael Jackson fan and aspires to be the next “king of pop.”
My apartment [complex] is kind of Mexican, but it’s also half-black. I know a little bit of Spanish, but we really don’t communicate with each other as much because we don’t take the time to get to know each other.
I would describe it as a little bit of noisy, a little bit of peaceful. It’s gotten worse because people find other ways to start trouble. I’ve witnessed like houses burning and someone getting shot, which is not a good sight.
For me, I was raised proper. I treat women with respect. I love other people and I love the environment, and I love to see people happy instead of sad.
I wonder if I actually grew up in the suburbs, would I still be proper? If I were in the suburbs, it would be a different atmosphere. You’d feel more fresh and more clean and you’d feel more peaceful.
My goals have never changed. My love for Michael Jackson is true. Watching him, growing up, I saw his dance moves and I heard the way he sings and it just inspired me. I just want to be a professional singer and be like him.
When he died, I made this pact to myself and to him that no matter what happened, I would take his place. I want to be an example to kids and to other people that no matter what you’ve been through, you can always make something out of it.
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Michael Taylor, 16, recently moved to Wayne Township but grew up on the far-Eastside. Because of some missteps, he has had to attend an alternative school but is trying to turn his life around.
I’d do anything for my family. I’m closer to my mom because she has always been there for me when my dad wasn’t there. I don’t really care too much about my dad.
I was raised good. I mean, my mom did good, kept me out of trouble, disciplined me right, made sure I would be in school.
Well, my neighborhood is good now, but before that, it was bad. Like it was real bad. Like I was a part of it. I was out there doing some stuff I had no business doing … It used to be so easy for people to just get inside my head.
If I would’ve grown up in a different neighborhood, I'd put a backpack on every day. I wouldn’t be getting in trouble.
This year, something hit me, like ‘It’s high school, I got to get all my credits.’
As long as I go to school and do whatever I got to do, crime ain’t going to affect me. I want to be driving. I want to be living again. I want a job.
I always wanted to be a football player because of my size, but if football don’t work, I’m going to fall back on like owning my own business or something, you know, take care of my family and do good. I don’t want to be like my daddy, having 10 kids.
It’s the only thing I want out of life, my family eating well. They need anything, they got it. We don’t have to struggle.
Reporters Justin Herring, 12, Elizabeth Papandria, 13, and Nyssa Qiao, 12, contributed to this story.
Copyright 2012 Y-Press