Street vendors are coming together to demand more police presence in Little Village following an increase in armed robberies.
One by one, street vendors recently walked into Chicago Police Department headquarters. They were on a mission to get help following recent robberies of street vendors along 26th Street.
“Today we are here because our superintendent has failed us again,” said Baltazar Enriquez of the Little Village Community Council.
The council hosted a rally demanding more police protection for vendors selling on the street. Among those vendors is Maria Velasquez, who says she’s been robbed at gunpoint three times in a span of 15 days.
“For me, it has been a very painful experience because when someone is pointing a gun at you it’s hard to know what to do but surrender our money,” Velasquez said.
Scared for her life, Velasquez showed WTTW News surveillance video of one of the robberies.
In the video you see a customer walking to his vehicle when he is ambushed. Velasquez says one of the robbers jumped onto her cart and mugged her at gunpoint before running off.
She has filed police reports but has yet to get any updates.
“I would like for police to patrol our area more often to feel safe,” she said. “When we see police patrolling when we’re working, we feel more at peace.”
In recent months, local leaders say street vendors have been victims of multiple assaults and robberies.
Community organizer Kristian Armendariz says he’s working with groups to help patrol along the 26th Street corridor.
“I’m risking my own life trying to keep our local street vendors safe,” Armendariz said. “Just 20 minutes I was checking in with a street vendor. I went to go check on another street vendor and he got robbed. If I would’ve stood there I probably would’ve been mugged too or worse.”
The vendors were not able to meet with Superintendent David Brown, but they were promised a town hall meeting in three weeks in the Little Village neighborhood.
“We’re asking for the superintendent also, walk with us at 3-4 in the morning and also meet the vendors so he could know who is protecting,” Enriquez said.
The Chicago Police Department said they could not comment on any plan of action involving the street vendors.
In the meantime, vendors like Velasquez have no choice but to continue to work knowing the suspects are still out there.
“I am going to keep selling with fear, but I have to keep working,” she said. “December is a really busy time for us, and I have no choice but to fulfill orders.”