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. 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 The Latin Kings 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 1972, the Latin Kings of Cortez and Ashland left but Division and Wolcott remained as this sections of Latin Kings battled Harrison Gents and Playboys.
Throughout the rest of the 1960s and all through the 1970s and into the 1980s there was a three-way gang war between Playboys, Latin Kings and Harrison Gents. As these wars ensued the neighborhood became increasingly seedy with same shady bars and high crime. East Village’s reputation was negative as this was an area to avoid.
In 1980s Playboys became less influential as the neighborhood became majority Hispanic. White flight caused many Playboys to leave the area then by the mid-1980s they closed down their territory and left the area permanently. Latin Kings and Harrison Gents continued their vicious gang wars.
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 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
Cortez to Walton, Ashland to Wood Established 1964-present years
Ashland & Thomas Established 1964-1964
Hermitage & Cortez 70s-present years
Division & Ashland
Pearson to Chicago Ave, Wood to Hermitage (Homicide, Commercial Park) 70s, 80s, 90s
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 1962-1986
Thomas & Winchester Established as Playboys 1962-1986 (PVP)
Hermitage & Pearson Established as Playboys (PVP)
Division to Chicago Ave, Damen to Ashland Established as Ventures (PVP)
Wood & Thomas Established as Coachmen 1964-1986 (PVP)
Walton & Wood Established as 13th District 1964-1986 (PVP)
Insane Vice Lords
Chicago Ave & Damen