EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – A proposed bill in the Illinois legislature would expand school bus service in dangerous neighborhoods.
As the law currently stands, homes in areas within a mile and a half of a school don't receive school bus service.
"There’s a lot of crime in East St. Louis," said Gloria Hicks, a grandmother raising her second generation of children in the Metro East. "We just want to make sure our children make it to home and school safely."
5 On Your Side walked along the route Hicks’ grandchildren take every day to Lincoln Middle.
Abandoned buildings line the journey.
"Look back here, anybody could grab them back there," she said.
We also saw a lot of traffic along Bond Avenue, making crossing the street for students just as dangerous.
"People cut through the city and it’s not safe because the kids can’t walk across the street with this traffic coming back and forth," Hicks said.
The organization East Side Aligned has worked closely with Illinois lawmakers to write the legislation.
"If the area between that one and a half miles has high rates of criminal activities and or violence that is deemed by local law enforcement, transportation must be provided,” Evan Krauss, the organization's director, said.
The law would apply to school districts across the state, but Krauss said it's needed most in East St. Louis. Data he's reviewed shows persistent crime near all of the schools in the city.
"If you plot it with pinpoint data, there is not a space where a young person isn’t exposed in one form or another," he said.
Just ask Scottez Clark. He's walked to school since Kindergarten and said forcing students to walk through dangerous areas is an invitation for trouble.
"Dang, somebody could have just been shot there last week, or somebody could come up and say, hey little kid, did your mom give you something for school today?" Clark said.
Hicks agrees, which is why she hopes by next year, she stops seeing the bus drive right by her house.
"We just want to make sure our children make it to home and school safely," she said.