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The toughest area is the southeast side of town but other than that heavy gang activity and crime is scattered throughout the community
This area was a part of the region that is now the suburb of River Forest in the first few decades of this area’s settlement. A town was built up that mainly was in River Forest called Noyesville, it was not until 1869 that this area took on its own identity and anything was actually built here. In that year William T. Nichols and his group of businessmen decided to build a suburb here that Nichols wanted to name after his daughter May, which would bring forth the name Maywood. In the year 1870 major construction began and the area was heavily built up that year.
In the year 1881, Maywood was officially incorporated and soon after industry came to the village that brought an increased population. In 1884, Chicago Scraper and Ditcher opened its doors that manufactured agricultural machinery. In 1885, Norton Can Works (American Can Company as of 1901) opened a manufacturing facility in the area that served as the largest employer for nearly 90 years to the people of Maywood and surrounding communities. In the next few decades many more industries would build up near the railroad tracks on the north side of town by Main Street which brought more jobs.
Eventually a shopping strip was built along 5th Avenue that included major retailers like Montgomery Ward and Sears; this further fired up the economy and brought revenue to the village. The village experienced early migration of African Americans in the 1920s as the community started to boom and then in the next few decades the African American population grew to over 5,000 of the 27,000 residents by 1960, Maywood was a suburb that experienced racial harmony.
In the year 1975, the prosperity of Maywood came to an end when American Can Company closed its doors forever, which brought about massive job loss to Maywood residents. In the next few years in the later 1970s more manufacturing companies in the industrial strip closed their doors creating more of a job loss. The loss of wages drained the retail strip along 5th Avenue which caused those retail businesses to close their doors, turning Maywood into an economically depressed area with many residents living below the poverty line. Many people that had lived in the village for years began packing up and moving out in the late 1970s and early 1980s, especially the white people that lived in the community. Many residents were leaving in order to seek employment in other regions, but many residents did not have the savings or equity in their homes to leave the village.
Property values soon decreased by 1980 as lower income and unemployed residents began settling in the village from Chicago. Many of the new arrivals were low income black residents that were looking for a better life in the suburb and since much of the industry collapsed, housing was cheap in Maywood. Among the lower income class residents from Chicago came Chicago based street gangs especially the Black P Stones that were started in the village by Anthony Strawder who was a 30 year old Black P Stone council member. Shortly after Strawder moved into the village and recruited Stones in the village he was arrested in January of 1980 for raping up to ten elderly women as he robbed their houses in 1979 (Chicago Tribune page 7, January 26, 1980). Strawder had just gotten out of prison after he robbed a grocery store in Elgin, when he shot a store clerk and served time for attempted murder (People vs. Strawder, 1975).
There was also the arrival of the Latin Kings street gang in the northwest side of the community mainly at 5th Avenue and Lake Street. The Latin Kings may have arrived as far back as the mid-1970s in the community, and opened up one of the toughest suburban Latin King chapters in history, as they heavily guarded the intersection of 5th and Lake and had many battles with Imperial Gangsters from nearby Franklin Park (The Jungle) and Gangster Disciples from Maywood throughout the years.
Shortly after the Black P Stones started in the village the Black Gangster Disciples started a chapter in Maywood that was another African American gang, same as the Conservative Vice Lords that migrated directly from the west side of Chicago.
After the arrival of the Black P Stones, Latin Kings, Black Gangster Disciples and Conservative Vice Lords, crime exploded in the suburb in the early 1980s years as drug dealing became common place and several incidents of smash and grabs were happening around town that law enforcement blamed on street gangs which is when criminals will suddenly run up and smash a car window then take the purse from the driver or passenger, women were mainly the targets (Chicago Tribune page 6, January 10, 1984).
By 1981, the gang conflicts between Black Gangster Disciples against Vice Lords and Black P Stones began to escalate fast as the suburb experienced its first gang related homicide then there would be two more slayings by September of 1982 (Chicago Tribune Page 22, September 30, 1982). In the wake of these early gang related homicides, Police Chief Willard Jackson created a gang crimes unit within the Maywood police department (Chicago Tribune Page 22, September 30, 1982). Jackson especially was compelled to assemble the department after the shooting of three men in January of 1982 that left two of the victims dead. Two men emerged from an alley way with a .38 caliber and .357 caliber revolvers and shot one of the three men in the face at point blank range, killing him instantly then shot the other two men as they tried to run (Chicago Tribune page 15, January 27, 1982).
By the year 1982, there were an estimated 50 hard core gang members in the suburb, then that number doubled in 1983 to number over 100 hard core members. The four gangs in the community stepped up recruitment heavily in 1983 as they went on an aggressive campaign to pull kids into the gang life (Chicago Tribune page 6, January 10, 1984).
Unemployment continued to rise in Maywood in the early 1980s especially since our entire nation was suffering an economic decline that lasted into 1984, then our nation pulled out of the slump, but most poor areas around the country never pulled out even up to present day, the bottom line is, the late 1970s and early 1980s brought about the shutting down of manufacturing that just was not deemed useful in this country anymore, technology and outsourcing took over. Maywood would never pull out of its slump in the 1980s, and most longtime residents knew this was going to be the permanent situation in the suburb and they began to pack their bags very quickly which depreciated the value of the neighborhood now that higher income residents were leaving the area causing tax dollars paid into the village to go down which of course brings about red lining practices.
The drug trade became very powerful in the 1980s in the suburb of Maywood as Maywood became the most dangerous western suburb. Most of criminal and gang activity was occurring on the southeast side and the west side but there was gang activity in other sections of town.
By the 1990 census the village was only about 12% white and there were just over 1,600 Latinos living in the community. In the more southern part of the village more African American gangs were moving in while the original three were still growing in number heading into the 1990s. There were now Traveling Vice Lords, Unknown Vice Lords, New Breeds, Black Disciples and Four Corner Hustlers in the village and most of those gangs did not allow Latino or white youths, only the Gangster Disciples and Conservative Vice Lords would allow it but many Latino and white youths in Maywood had no interest in joining those gangs, that is why the Latin Kings were the alternative for Latino and white youths.
Allegations and rumors began flying around in the 1980s and increasing in the 1990s about police corruption and that many officers were either in gangs or connected to gangs. There were speculations that police were stealing drugs from suspects and beating people up. The case of Maywood police lieutenant Harold Jenkins came into light in 1992 after he was seen beating a drug addict with a baseball bat which caught attention around Chicagoland and soon allegations from as far back as 1989 of Jenkins shaking down suspects and brutalizing others came to the surface (Chicago tribune Ronald Koziol, March 18, 1992). This was a talked about and official case but much of what was going on in Maywood of police corruption and cooperation with gangs was not as publicized. Maywood police had a long history of corruption; however, most of it did not come out to the surface until the 2000s decade. Many allegations talked about Maywood police being in bed with street gangs, tipping them off of possible raids and also beating people that crossed them. Federal law enforcement agencies told the press that there were definitely gang members on the police force. One gang leader even claimed if he wanted a license plate ran he could get a Maywood officer to take care of it, no problem (Chicago Politics and City Life, ROBERT HERGUTH AND DANE PLACKO, August 14, 2012). Heavy amounts of police corruption in any suburb can be very dangerous because it can allow high crime to run rampant, residents have complained that they could see open air drug dealing and a police car will drive by and somehow not notice.
Maywood still has a higher than normal crime rate, and is actually considered one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago land. Despite the high rate of poverty, Maywood is not a boarded up community with several vacant buildings and houses, there are also some areas that have lower crime and are less dangerous, especially the northeastern section of the town. The violent crime and murder rate has dropped significantly in recent years making Maywood not as dangerous as it was in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s decades.