City Stories

ILL Side: Inside the streets of East St. Louis

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The Short East St Louis Ghetto Story 

A famous urban destination spot for the St. Louis metropolitan with gentlemen clubs and nightclubs, the Ill Side, which represents St Louis’ only section that is in the state of Illinois, is a community that has many misunderstandings.

This once famous city within the limits of St. Clair County, Illinois has become known nationwide for being a trouble community as the East St Louis ghetto has created a reputation from East St Louis gangs to East St Louis crime and corruption.

The decline and change of East St. Louis, as well the surrounding areas, began after the loss of jobs and the movement of white families into newer communities of Collinsville, Belleville and other suburban neighborhoods of St. Clair and Madison counties.

With the loss of the region’s major employers and half of the residents in East St. Louis fleeing for the suburbs, the Metro East community began to fall into state and federal debt, while East St Louis crime and corruption within the local police departments and local public officials began to rise.

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Originally, African-Americans moved into East St Louis between the early and mid-1900s for the many employment opportunities in the railroads, factories and businesses along the river.

Upon their arrival, many African-Americans would experience much racial tension and jealousy that led to one of the country’s worst race riots, during the year of 1917.

Eventually, with the help of white flight, African-Americans would later begin to expand and move into the nearby towns of Washington Park, Centreville and Alorton, while also residing in the majority of neighborhoods in East St Louis.

Years later, East St Louis gangs came into the mix as Chicago gangs of the Vice Lords and the Gangster Disciples were introduced into the city, eventually given the city a reputation of one of the most dangerous places as East St Louis crime was running rampant.

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With the lack of opportunities and drugs thriving in the urban communities of St. Clair County, the East St Louis ghetto gained a number of negative labels with East St Louis crime creating the terms of the “Murder Capitol” or the “Most Dangerous City”.

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As the streets became active, with the rise of East St Louis gangs and the increase of East St Louis crime, many neighborhoods began to build reputations for themselves.

These reputable ‘hoods of the East St Louis ghetto include the South End and the JDS Projects, the Gomperz, Haymoes (15th and Lynch), Da Hole (Norman Owens Projects), Deuce9 or State Street’s Tre Block, Edgemont and Parkside.

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Outside of the actual city of East St Louis, other ‘hoods within the streets of St Clair County’s Metro East are in the sections of Washington Park, Centreville, Alorton, Brooklyn, Madison and Cahokia.

These areas of the East St Louis ghetto has ‘hoods like the Greystone Projects, the Veltz (Roosevelt Projects), the Fireworkz Projects (Ernest Smith), Parkfield Terrace and many centered around streets like Bunkum Road, Bond Avenue or Camp Jackson.

Currently, East St. Louis and certain sections of St. Clair County have become much dilapidated as the 18% of people in St Clair County that live in poverty mostly reside in the East St Louis ghetto, as well the Washington Park and Centreville areas.

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Along with poverty, East St Louis crime and corruption with the local police and politicians has led to state and federal agents to help police the community and also police the local police departments and public officials.

The people of East St Louis have for long lived in an environment that has a reputation consisted with drugs, violence, corruption, and poverty, which seems to be the only opinion and view of East St. Louis.

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Check out more on the St. Louis area from TheRealStreetz.com

*Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research.  Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.