East Village (West Town)
East Village (West Town)

East Village (West Town)

Area West Side

Division Street on the north, Chicago Avenue on the south, Ashland Avenue on the east, Damen Avenue on the west.

Gangs headquartered Harrison Gents, Latin Kings,

This area is bounded by Division Street on the north, Chicago Avenue on the south, Ashland Avenue on the east, Damen Avenue on the west.

The area was first settled by German immigrants in the 19th century, and then in the 1890s Polish immigrants joined them and continued to flood the neighborhood.  Once World War II started for Poland in 1939 Polish migration to East Village greatly increased to the point where they were the dominating ethnic group.  The neighborhood was filled with Polish businesses, churches etc…  The area was also given the name the “Polish Ghetto” because the area was mainly settled by Polish lower income classes, and it was a neighborhood where gambling dens and rougher saloons were prevalent.

In 1957, Puerto Rican families began to settle in this area and lived among the impoverished Polish families.  Puerto Rican families in this area were very poor and mainly co-existed between Polish and Puerto Ricans.

Significant gang activity started with the arrival of the Playboys that began hanging out at Winchester and Thomas at the Winchester Inn tavern starting in 1962.  These were the Senior Playboys that had just graduated high school and were looking for a hangout outside of their normal Wicker Park stomping grounds.

1962 was the same year Puerto Rican migration increased significantly in this neighborhood.  With the new migration wave came the creation of Hispanic street gangs in neighborhoods nearby like Noble Square and Wicker Park.  Hispanic street gangs from this area battled with white gangs like Gaylords, Chi-West, Playboys, Pulaski Park and Ventures.  These gangs often victimized Hispanic youths causing them to create multiple street gangs.  This is when the Senior Playboys began recruiting mostly young Polish youths to fight the surrounding Hispanic gangs.

In the year 1964, the Latin Kings arrived in this neighborhood and opened one of the first chapters of the Latin Kings at Ashland and Cortez.  This group of Latin Kings was a hardcore group that now protected Hispanic youths in East Village from the Playboys.

The Harrison Gents arrived in the same year as the Latin Kings in 1964.  The Harrison Gents arrived right on Ashland Avenue and quickly clashed with Latin Kings.  Just like Latin Kings these Harrison Gents were mostly Hispanic and were there to protect youths from the Playboys as well; however, Latin Kings and Harrison Gents found instant animosity.

In the year 1971, the Latin Kings of Cortez and Ashland left but Division and Wolcott remained as this section of Latin Kings battled Harrison Gents and Playboys.  The Harrison Gents took over Ashland and Cortez and then expanded into a larger more dominant gang in East Village beginning in 1971 which began their permanent presence in the area.  It was also at this time that Ashland Vikings from Noble Square started hanging out west of Ashland Avenue near Harrison Gent areas.  Former Ashland and Cortez Latin Kings flipped to Harrison Gents and Ashland Vikings giving Ashland Vikings an inroad into this community starting in 1971.

Throughout the rest of the 1960s and all through the 1970s there was a three-way gang war between Playboys, Latin Kings and Harrison Gents.  As these wars ensued the neighborhood became increasingly seedy with some shady bars and high crime.  East Village’s reputation was negative as this was an area to avoid by the 1970s.

In the year 1975 Playboys left this community after several police crackdowns and white flight shrunk their numbers.

By the 1980s East Village became majority Hispanic.  Latin Kings and Harrison Gents continued their vicious gang wars.  In the 1980s the Ashland Vikings began taking several pieces of territory which would eventually create a conflict with Harrison Gents by 1986.

Gang activity continued to be vicious in the 1980s and 1990s as high crime, drugs and violent crime became a major issue in this community.

In the 1990s Ashland Vikings faded out of this area as Harrison Gents grew stronger once a war began between Gents and Vikings.

In the 21st century much of East Village was bought up by yuppies and hipsters that dramatically drove up the value of the neighborhood as they paid higher rents and brought about renovations.  Trendy businesses and refined restaurants also added appeal to the neighborhood which squashed most of the gang activity.  Latin Jivers started in this community in later years that fought Latin Kings and Harrison Gents who would fight each other too.

Harrison Gents is the dominant gang in this neighborhood for several generations.

For those of you that live in this area over the past few decades that are among the young urban professionally class you might be interested to know these streets once had these gangs walk them over time:

Harrison Gents Established 1964-present years

Division to Augusta, Ashland to Wood Established 1972-present years  (Ashland Vikings were also within this area in the 1980s until 1994, this is a general area of operation)

Ashland & Thomas Established 1964-1964

Ashland &  Cortez Established 1972-present years

Pearson to Chicago Ave, Wood to Hermitage (Homicide, Commercial Park) 90s (Ashland Vikings were also within this area in the 1980s until 1994, this is a general area of operation)

Ashland Vikings Established Late 1981-Early 1990s

Sections of Ashland Vikings

North Ave to Chicago Ave, Damen to Ashland (Harrison Gents were also within this general area in the 1980s until 1994)

Latin Kings Established 1964-2010s

Noble & Cortez Established 1964-1972

Ashland & Cortez Established 1965-1972

Division & Wolcott 1972-2010s

Thomas & Winchester 90s, 2000s

Latin Jivers 90s

Augusta & Wood 90s

Playboys Ventures Pulaski Park Established 1962-1975

Thomas & Winchester Established as Playboys 1962-1975 (PVP)

Hermitage & Pearson Established as Playboys (PVP)

Division to Chicago Ave, Damen to Ashland Established as Ventures (PVP)

Wood & Thomas Established as Coachmen 1964-1975 (PVP)

Walton & Wood Established as 13th District 1964-1975 (PVP)

Insane Vice Lords

Chicago Ave & Damen

Chi-West Late 1970s-1980

Winchester & Augusta