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Green Street on the north, Third Avenue on the south, Mount Prospect Road on the east, York Road on the west – not all that bad of an area. The truly worst area is now removed and was north of Green Street and east of York Road
Ah yes, Bensenville the town that got a lot of its fame from being the home of the oldest running commercial in Chicago area history from Victory Auto Wreckers that aired from 1985 to 2015, other than that most people do not hear much about this suburb and when they do they hear it has always been a bad neighborhood, which could not be further from the truth; however, there was a significant gang element in this suburb up until the 2010s decade.
Bensenville was first settled by the white man in the year 1833 by Hezekiah Dunklee and Mason Smith that came from the east coast. The new name of the community was Dunklee’s Grove, of course named after Hezekiah Dunklee. Eventually a society of farmers took up residence in the area and built up a cash crop farming industry that became the main economic life force of this community.
In the year 1872, Dedrich Struckmann, Henry Korthauer, and Frederick Heuer and others purchased Dunklee’s Grove then subdivided it, in 1873 the town was renamed Bensenville by Henry Schuette. In 1884 the town was officially incorporated.
In the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s Bensenville’s population boomed and new subdivisions were built up, the most notorious of them was the apartments and houses that were built just south of O’Hare Airport by York Road and Irving Park Road. The expansion of this community also brought a larger Mexican population to the area as the Mexican families mainly settled in the area bordered by Irving Park Road on the north, Jefferson Street on the south and York Road on the west.
Gangs have been a part of Bensenville at least 1957 and likely sooner. Some Bensenville youths were wild and crazy greasers that got involved in some more serious crime and violent gang fights. I am not sure if these gangs were around all through the 1960s but they were for sure around in the late 1950s and this is how it all began.
In the year 1980, the suburb of Bensenville was infiltrated by Chicago based street gangs for the first time; however, law enforcement would not get word of it until the fall of 1982. Latin Kings from the north side of Chicago began a chapter here. Imperial Gangsters from the north side landed here too along with Harrison Gents from up north. Maniac Latin Disciples set up here also from the northside. The Spanish Cobras arrived from Cicero and Armitage on the northside as well. The crazy thing is all these gangs were part of the Folk alliance except the Latin Kings that rivaled them all. The Latin Kings, Harrison Gents and Imperial Gangsters had the strongest following. All of these gangs settled in the townhomes along Hamilton Street which housed many lower income families migrating from the city. The gangs remained covert until 1982.
In the Autumn season of the year 1982 Bensenville police and residents first identified the Imperial Gangsters. Soon residents from across the street from the apartments were complaining about slashed tires, broken windows and gang brawls in the street (Chicago Tribune Page 4, March 15, 1983).
In 1983, the Latin Kings and Harrison Gents street gangs were now known by police and residents as these three gangs grew to a membership of a reported combined 40-50 members. The gangs spread within the entire Hispanic community in the suburb and became a serious force to be reckoned with. There was even a report in October 1983 where a youth was told he had no choice but to break into someone’s home or he would face a severe beating, one of the teens refused and he was beaten pretty badly (Chicago Tribune Page 8, July 6, 1984). These type of activities greatly concerned the Bensenville police and residents in the community and now Bensenville police had to step it up.
In the rest of the 1980s decade law enforcement stepped up their patrols and tracking of gang members and it was claimed that the community was calming down; however, gang membership was actually growing within the small section bounded by York Road, Irving Park Road and Jefferson Street. Green Street had the worst reputation as being the most dangerous street in town. The Bensenville community still had not succumb to any issues with gang related murders yet until October of 1991.
On October the 24th 1991, 15-year-old Justin Campos was hanging out with two of his friends joking around and having a good time on a Thursday night. Justin was mentally getting ready to testify against members of the Latin Kings because Campos associated, but was not a member of, a rival gang. Campos was helping testify about a gang fight at a fast food restaurant in Bensenville earlier that year. Campos was set to testify the next day but all those plans were cut short that night when Justin would become a victim of gang violence. As the three boys were hanging out, a figure with a hood pulled over his head emerged from a nearby alley and once Campos saw him, he knew what was coming and ran like hell; however, the gunman still managed to fire two bullets into the young teen’s back. Justin still ran to his home at 143 Garden Ave but then collapsed in his yard and died (Chicago Tribune Art Barnum and Joseph Sjostrom, October 26, 1991). After this murder all of Dupage county was in shock and incredible panic gripped not only the suburb of Bensenville but all of the Dupage county suburbs, especially the ones that had been having gang problems for a while. Everyone was panicking because they were afraid that gangs would multiply into the hundreds or thousands in every Dupage county suburb. The newspapers buzzed about the murder reporting on it frequently until the trial happened in 1992, and the young 18-year-old suspect was acquitted of the charges. The reporting and revisiting of the murder continued on until 1993.
The heavy amount of reporting on the Campos murder definitely caused the Bensenville police to step up their patrols and anti-gang policies, which resulted in the gangs having far less power and activity within that small section of the suburb. On the downside, the frequent stories of that murder gave Bensenville a bad reputation to the point where people thought the whole neighborhood was rotten and dangerous, but in reality only one small part of the town was a little rough but definitely not dangerous. Over the years several gangs from Chicago did establish a foothold in this community such as: C- Notes, Two Six, Insane Dragons, Latin Counts, and City Knights. The Latin Kings remained one of the larger gangs in this neighborhood.
Most of the gang activity and slightly rougher area was ordered to be vacated in the 2000s-decade since O’Hare Airport wanted to do an expansion in the area. For years all the old homes and the once troubled apartments on Hamilton Street remained vacant, looking like a ghost town with boarded up homes, closed down, shuttered businesses, until in 2013 everything was completely razed and now the area is taken over by O’Hare completely. This also ended the legacy of most of the gang activity in this suburb.