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.
In the year 1966, race riots spread all over the Chicago area and even into the suburbs as the black man had had enough of oppression and being treated unfairly, unfortunately many times Chicago area residents that had nothing to do with racial discrimination often suffered from attacks and property damage. In the suburb of Maywood, black residents became tired of being treated differently as it was a known fact that Melrose Park gangs of Italian youths would attack Maywood youths and groups of whites in Maywood itself would attack black youths too or bully them.
In September of 1967, the racial issues boiled over as a war erupted between blacks and whites in both Maywood and Aurora as shootings and bombings occurred. The whites were heavily armed and fleets of white men from other suburbs came in with weapons as an attack was about to begin. Middle aged men and teenage boys were involved but police got the heads up and arrested many of those involved. before the arrests shots were fired and bombs were thrown in a very scary war.
Later in the fall season of 1967 in October, another major racial outbreak erupted in the village. The NAACP was very active in Maywood and was raising a black militant group while groups of black teens roamed the village throwing stones and bottles at police or even any whites they saw. Just like in the attacks a month earlier Maywood residents, both black and white, were terrified and stayed in their homes allowing the rioters and police complete control of the streets. The Maywood police were literally at war with black rioters as a massive onslaught of violence grabbed hold of Maywood. There were now 12,000 blacks living in Maywood and 18,000 whites. The black population of the village was now 40% which is that point where racial tensions always exploded in the suburbs and Chicago neighborhoods when the black population nears half the population.
In the year 1968, another uprising of race rioting happened in Maywood that didn’t seem as severe as the 1967 riot but once again stones were thrown and property was damaged.
More racial tensions brewed over in the 1969-1970 school year at Proviso East High School after Black Panther Leader Fred Hampton was shot to death by police. Hampton was a Maywood native and black students were infuriated about the death and wars in school between black and white students ripped through the hallways. It was at this time when the Black P Stones attempted to infiltrate the suburb just as they did in the south suburbs. The difference between Maywood and the south suburbs is that poverty wasn’t overflowing in the village like it was in the south suburbs; therefore, local tax dollars kept a more adequate police force that successfully prevented the Stones from creating a successful section in the community.
In the year 1973, American Can Company laid off 900 people at its plant and this was the beginning of Maywood’s plunge into poverty as white-flight began to increase right away and impoverished Chicagoans began to move into the village.
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. This is when drugs and crime raised higher especially by 1975 when burglaries and drug related crime began to spike since 1974.
In the year 1976, Maywood became more affordable for Hispanic and African American families from Chicago that had lower incomes. Among the Hispanic families came “Nat,” “Mugsy” and “Droopy” of the 23rd and Christiana Latin Kings. These Latin Kings were from some one of the hardest elements of Latin Kings in the city and they were now settling comfortably in this new suburb. Within no time in that same year these Latin Kings started an active branch in this community making Maywood the very first suburb in Latin King or Chicago suburban history to have an official, established Latin King branch. Nat recruited his cousin from Maywood “Pee Wee” then soon all Pee Wee’s friends: “Lil Man,” “Chino,” “Capricorn,” “Lil K,” “No No,” “New Nee,” and “King Stretch,” were the very first Maywood Latin Kings and the first suburban Latin Kings in world history. The headquarters for the Latin Kings became the intersection of 5th Avenue and Lake Street, which became a very sacred intersection and is basically the motherland of all south side area suburbs in Chicago. The main goal of these Latin Kings was to protect Mexican people settling in this new white neighborhood that often wasn’t friendly with their arrival. Latin Kings stood guard of Hispanic owned businesses and fought off groups of racists. The Latin Kings were the first and only Chicago based gang in Maywood for three years.
In the later 1970s, property values continued to plummet drawing in more of the unemployed populace from Chicago and this brought in many impoverished black residents to the community. The village’s tax dollars could no longer afford better anti-gang measures which allowed new Chicago based gangs to arrive. Latin Kings began to have conflicts with black youths in the area and some violence ensued until in 1979 when the Black Gangster Disciples and Four Corner Hustlers arrived who not only fought each other but both also fought the Latin Kings.
In the year 1980, more black street gangs arrived like the El Rukns (Black P Stones), Conservative Vice Lords, Unknown Vice Lords and Cicero Insane Vice Lords.
The Black P Stones 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).
The Imperial Gangsters arrived in the nearby suburb of Franklin Park in the late 70s or very early 1980s and created “The Jungle” section. These Imperial Gangsters got into major conflict with Maywood Latin Kings and soon Imperial Gangsters were crossing into Maywood frequently causing many problems and sparking lots of gang violence between the two gangs.
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).
In the year 1981, the Folk and People alliances were first established on the streets and the gangs were tasked all over the Chicago area to drawn those lines between Folk and People. This is when the Latin Kings, Unknown Vice Lords, Cicero Insane Vice Lords, Conservative Vice Lords, Four Corner Hustlers and El Rukns held a meeting at the Miller Meadow Forest Preserve at the intersection of 1st Avenue and Roosevelt Road in the nearby suburb of Forest Park. This meeting was for the People allied gangs as they established how the alliance would operate. Shortly after this Vice Lords, Four Corner Hustlers and Latin Kings teamed up to go attack Black Gangster Disciples and Imperial Gangsters at Proviso East High School on the last day of school. The Inca of the Maywood Junior Latin Kings King Stretch went along with “Player,” “Rocky,” and “Samboner.” The Four Corner Hustler founder’s son Fred Gage Junior, “Potsy” and “Bucky” got involved along side the Latin Kings and for the Vice Lords “Baby Lord,” “Butchie” and “Row Row” joined in as they rode in a 1968 Bonneville with suicide doors and a 1970s Dodge Tradesman van with 3 bench seats. The 10 gang members in these three gangs drove around in these two vehicles and jumped out on any Imperial Gangsters and Black Gangster Disciples they saw and beat them up badly all around the school that day. Because of this incident the Broadview, Maywood, Forest Park, Oak Park and Cook County Sheriffs would surround Proviso East every school year on the last days of school to watch over the kids.
The Latin Kings in Maywood had an especially hard time with police by the later 70s and early 1980s because the majority of the police force was black and which caused Latin Kings to not see eye to eye with these police officers.
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 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.