The Buck(Town) Stops Here Chicago

February 27, 2024

Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Ukrainian Village crime numbers spiral out of control, causing residents to flee and boutiques to close as high-end property values start to decline

Those in their 40s and 50s who have lived in Chicago for decades remember Bucktown, Ukrainian Village, Logan Square and Wicker Park as once being what the West Loop is today — hip neighborhoods full of trendy bars, restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, and the best modern (renovated or new construction) housing stock. In short: Where everyone wants to be. 

However, in recent years, crime has spiraled out of control in these neighborhoods, which is starting to drive residential property values down at the high end of the market. Crime is pushing "those with families not trapped by large mortgages that are underwater out of the neighborhood and into the burbs," according to a local real estate investor.

The images and videos of crime in Bucktown are making national headlines, including a brutal assault covered by John Kass

Crime: By the numbers 

In Bucktown, motor vehicle theft has increased more than 160 percent since 2019 (from 31 to 82). U.S. Criminal Sexual Assaults increased from 2 in 2018 to 10 in 2023. And robberies have increased from 14 to 53 (a roughly 278 percent increase) between 2019 and 2023 (the 2018 numbers were 19, in case you were curious). Criminal damage to property has also increased 12 percent over the same 5-year period.

If we consider the surrounding neighborhoods (Wicker Park, Logan Square, and Ukrainian Village), which have witnessed an even greater building spike than Bucktown in the past five years, the numbers look equally dismal.

Vehicle thefts up nearly 237 percent (from 64 to 216). Sexual assaults up from 2 in 2018 to 9 in 2023. A 79 percent increase in robberies (68 to 122). Shootings and homicides remain a bright spot, however, with only 5 being reported in 2023 (up from 3 in 2018 and 4 in 2019).

Nonetheless, the reported data only tells part of the story (and our sources on the ground say the data likely severely understates the problem—many residents and visitors have simply stopped reporting crimes against property since the CPD is not able to respond anymore with any frequency).

According to one resident, opportunistic criminals have moved in, “prowling the streets on a daily basis looking for easy pickings against property and persons” — with crime turning violent more often than residents remember at any point in the past. And in certain cases, organized crime, in the form of gangs, have pushed their territories “back into” streets they used to control in the 80s and early 90s.

The result has been a perfect storm for armed robberies, carjackings, home burglaries, and store “smash and grabs,” not to mention an increasing homeless and migrant problem which has now “moved beyond the viaducts under the Kennedy.”

Diplomatic, well known to sneaker fans and other collectors, saw so many burglaries on North Avenue (including cars crashing into the store) that it closed its doors permanently. Other boutiques have followed suit.

Residents are speaking up 

Residents are starting to become more vocal about the rising crime. In a letter to the city and Cook County officials in October, CWB reported that, “A coalition of neighborhood groups is calling on city and Cook County officials to address ‘dramatic increases in violent crime,’ especially armed robberies, in West Town, Logan Square, Wicker Park, and adjoining neighborhoods.”

“The letter claims that areas like Logan Square saw a 469 percent increase in armed robberies in August compared to last year,” CWB observes. 

A long-time community resident who owns a multi-family residence in Bucktown told Chicago Contrarian:

“It’s hard to explain how great this area once was compared to what it is today. We literally had all the best boutiques in the city and many of the best bars and restaurants, not to mention the best new housing stock. Getting to O’Hare was easy on the Blue Line (as was getting downtown).”

He continues: “Headed back from work, I used to dream about Friday night and walking to get the onion soup and steak frites at Le Bouchon — or the ‘gravy [the red sauce]’ at Lucky Strike.”

“But today, I drive everywhere, and those steak frites which used to cost $20 now are $40! You take your life in your hands on the El anytime outside of rush hour and even just walking around the neighborhood to go get a bite to eat, you can get robbed — as happened to a friend at knifepoint recently.” 

“Every time I leave my house, I drive now (including to work in the city), unless it’s broad daylight and I’m with others. And when I walk to my car, I have my personal radar up at all times, as robberies and carjackings have become a daily occurrence even when the streets are busy. Simply put: It’s no longer fun to live here. Life is a chore. And despite all this, my property taxes keep going up, even as the value of my building refuses to budge.”


Real estate market turning south 

Recent property transactions in the Bucktown, Wicker Park, and Logan Square areas suggest the higher-end real estate market may be declining in desirability due to crime or other factors.

The property at 2023 West Crystal Street, which last sold for $1,325,000 in 2021, is currently listed as contingent with an ask price of $1,295,000 (the list price exceeded $1,600,000 in 2023 before dropping to the current amount).

Another property, 1725 North Marshfield Avenue, a 4 bedroom, 4.5 bath, 4,700 SQ FT house, with a wine cellar and sauna, recently sold for $1,395,000 in December of 2023, down from a transaction price of $1,635,000 in 2010.

A local real estate investor, who recently pulled out of the Northside market and is instead investing in Northwest Indiana, told Chicago Contrarian that “the lower end of the Bucktown area market still appears to be stable, but it’s really hard to make any money when you adjust for taxes, carrying costs, and property upkeep, either as an investor or homeowner at any price range.”

He continues:

“At the mid to high end, you are lucky to break even if you’ve held the property for a decade these days. Regardless, all residents now have to contend with living in a constant state of situational awareness to avoid being a crime victim—and even then, your luck may run out.”

Taxes are also a major challenge. “And did I mention the real estate taxes, which increased over 18 percent last year in Logan Square, which still features a majority of fixer-upper or even dilapidated properties, still, on average? For those with new construction in Logan Square, taxes have doubled or tripled over the past decade in these neighborhoods, but we’re not seeing any material appreciation in value,” he concludes.

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