Adventures in Pest Control: "Those are Latin Kings"
In November 2018 I finished a two year run as a pest control technician with Advanced Maintenance and Pest Solutions. A big thanks to AMPS Operations Manager Bryan Nichols for bringing me on. It was the least boring and most challenging job I've ever had. With that in mind, I have a story to tell about my experience.
My job took me all around Chicago and into a variety of neighborhoods in the city. One of the neighborhoods I serviced was Humboldt Park, a few miles northwest of downtown Chicago for reference. Before this job I never set foot in Humboldt Park, not once. Why? Humboldt Park was gangland, serious, dangerous gangland. I grew up in Lake View, a neighborhood on the north side of Chicago not far from Wrigley Field. Lake View was no great shakes and had its own gang problems, but nothing near the level of Humboldt Park. Venturing into Humboldt Park as a young man was unthinkable; you'd be risking life and limb if you did. This was my memory of the place, so going into Humboldt Park for work was a novelty, to say the least.
One day I'm working in Humboldt Park and with me was a coworker who grew up there. My coworker knew the neighborhood well, including which street gangs held which territories. Valuable and life-saving information to know. I'm not exaggerating here – on previous trips to Humboldt Park my coworker would often point out street corners where friends of his were shot and killed by gangs. When I heard his tales I thought "That's the Humboldt Park I remember."
On this day, at the end of the day, we're on a quiet dead-end side street off Kedzie Avenue near Division Street, right in the heart of Humboldt Park. We just finished a pest control job and were starting to head back to the office. I'm driving the company truck. When we get to the end of the street to turn around I notice four guys at the back of a garage in an alley. They were hanging out, shooting the breeze, doing what guys do when they're together. No big deal I thought. My coworker noticed me noticing these fellas, looks at them and says, matter-of-factly, "Those are Latin Kings." I looked at him and responded, "How do you know?" He says, again matter-of-factly, "This is their territory." I paused and thought to myself "Those are the dreaded Latin Kings, one of the most feared street gangs in Chicago, one of the reasons I avoided Humboldt Park as a kid?" They didn't look so terrifying to me. I wouldn't walk up to them and start a fight but at the same time I didn't feel threatened by them. I didn't think much more about it, except that it might make a good story to tell.
I did dozens of jobs in Humboldt Park during my two year tenure with the company. At no time did I ever feel unsafe there and my encounters with our clients and HP residents were always pleasant. Granted, the gang problem has lessened considerably over the years, and as an adult I don't feel quite as vulnerable as I did when I was a teenager. If anything, I came to appreciate Humboldt Park, a neighborhood in a city of neighborhoods that makes Chicago interesting and gives it flavor.
- February 2022