Latino Voices

As Armed Robberies Continue, Street Vendors in Little Village Fear for Their Safety

As Armed Robberies Continue, Street Vendors in Little Village Fear for Their Safety

For months, vendors in the Little Village community have been on edge as continuing armed robberies have left them feeling targeted.

Multiple vendors say they have been robbed at gunpoint despite efforts to protect them. The latest victims are food truck workers.

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Food truck owners say they have taken precautions to protect themselves, including adding barriers to concession windows.

Javier Jimenez, a food truck worker, was recently robbed.

“We had the door open because we were bringing in product, when we heard someone pull the door,” Jimenez said. “And people came in with masks and a gun and demanded money.”

Jimenez works at one of the food trucks on 31st Street and Kedzie Avenue. In November, Jimenez says the food truck was robbed twice within two weeks.

“We were in shock,” he said. “This had never happened to us and the truth is that we’re afraid.”

It was broad daylight when Jimenez says men in ski masks robbed them with rifles and also targeted another food truck on the same street.

“It seems this type of crime is increasing as the years go by,” Jimenez said. “It has never happened to us; we have heard it happening elsewhere, but this time, they targeted us.”

Crimes against vendors are not new in Little Village. Since last year, community organizer Kristian Armendariz has worked to help street vendors.

“The fear is still in the vendors,” Armendariz said. “They are still looking over their shoulder. You just don’t know if the person coming is going to be client or is going to mug them.”

After demands for a larger police presence in Little Village, Armendariz says there has been more communication with the commander of the 10th District.

“Thanks to the hard work the community did, CPD presence is still around in the morning,” Armendariz said. “Cook County sheriffs are also around in the morning hours to keep an extra eye.”

But despite these efforts, the crimes continue. And Armendariz says the criminals are getting away with it.

Armendariz, who also works with the Little Village community councils, said police officers have apprehended some of the individuals involved with the robberies.

“They have caught them and released them because they are minors,” Armendariz said. “They have found guns that are linked to the crime and they release them.”

Mayor Brandon Johnson recently released a new anti-violence strategy called “People’s Plan for Community Safety.”

Little Village is one of the neighborhoods the city says it will include in the plan’s first phase

“We need to reduce the violence in the neighborhood,” Armendariz said. “It’s sad because it’s many young individuals who need guidance.”

Armendariz says people need to be held accountable for their actions when it comes to the crimes committed against the street vendors in Little Village.

“We are actually trying to have conversations with the state attorney’s office because at the end of the day, they apprehended these individuals but they release them because they are underage,” Armendariz said. “Majority of them are repeated offenders and they are just committing the crime all over again and there’s no actually accountability for them.”

In a statement regarding the crimes against street vendors, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office says that it “remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners to address violence and crime and will continue to prosecute criminal cases based on the law and the evidence as we strive to increase safety in our communities.”

Officials with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office have also been meeting with vendors throughout the year and have routine patrols in the neighborhood. 

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