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Shots on Cook County’s expressways this year at 188, compared to 52 in 2019

In a matter of weeks, shootings on Chicago and Cook County’s highways are well on their way to quadrupling the 2019 total, Illinois State Police records show.

In 2019 there were 52 reported highways shootings in the Cook region – an average of about four per month. In 2018 there were 43.

But as of Tuesday there have been 188 shootings so far this year, a little over 20 a month.

“These freeway shootings range from targeted shootings for gang membership, as a result of other criminal activity, and some unfortunately involve innocent members of the auto community,” said Sgt. Delila Garcia.

State Police officials said they couldn’t speculate on the cause of the spike, which began with 128 freeway shootings in 2020. But “it has increased because all the shootings have increased,” said retired Chicago police commander and criminologist Marc Buslik. “Other cities have seen an increase in public violence as well.”

Illinois state police director Brendan Kelly announced that the agency would conduct double patrols on the Chicago area highways on September 30, a week of six violent acts on the Dan Ryan, Eisenhower and Stevenson highways as well as the I- 57.

A man from Downers Grove was shot wounded on the Eisenhower at 10:34 pm on September 30th. On September 28, a Cicero man and his male passenger, a Chicago citizen, both died after being shot dead on the Stevenson at around 11:30 p.m.

An Elgin man was shot and injured in his car on Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) in Hoffman Estates at around 4 a.m. on September 26.

In more than 30 years, “We have never before faced the concentrated levels of gun violence that we faced in 2020 and 2021,” Kelly said in a statement. Despite the nationwide responsibility of the state police, “right now the greatest need is here, on Chicago’s highways”.

As of Tuesday, 102 people had been injured and 17 killed on Cook County’s expressways, compared with seven fatalities in 2020 and three in 2019.

The 2019 deaths included U.S. postal worker Tamara Clayton, who was shot and killed on February 4 while walking from her home in Country Club Hills to her work place near O’Hare International Airport. The 55-year-old was on a late shift on I-57.

“She was the nicest person on the planet,” said Clayton’s daughter Jayla Shelton. “She sacrificed so much for me.”

The riskiest times, places

Where is the violence most intense in 2021? About 31% of the shootings took place on the Dan Ryan, almost 21% on the Eisenhower, about 15% on the Bishop Ford Freeway, almost 14% on I-57, 9% on the Stevenson, about 4% on the Kennedy, 2% each on I-80 and the Edens Expressway and 1% on I-394.

An analysis of government data on Sept. 24 showed that post-dark shots between 7:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. were almost three times more likely than those fired between 3:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. during the day

The time of day with the most shootings was 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., at 6 p.m.

Tracking down suspects who open fire at high speed at night is more than problematic.

“You have fewer opportunities for witnesses. You have fewer opportunities for video evidence. There isn’t a lot of physical evidence in a shootout anyway, except maybe a few grenade boxes. Now you’re looking for grenade boxes from cars cruising down the highway.” – it’s very difficult, “said Buslik, a lecturer in criminology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Wesley G. Skogan, Northwestern University crime policy expert, remarked, “If there is a report of shots fired in a Chicago neighborhood, there will be a patrol car in 2½ minutes one way, difficult to get to . “

“Everyone is moving on very quickly. The victims may be trying to find a hospital. The gunners are rolling down the highway,” added Skogan, professor emeritus at Northwestern.

Illinois state police reported nine shootings arrests in 2021 on Friday.

When asked whether the loss of jobs and a recession caused by COVID-19 led to the spiraling fire on the expressway, Buslik said: “This motivation has always been there. People don’t rob because they lost their jobs during the pandemic. “

Instead, many expressway feuds involve more than just gang territory, he said.

“So much violence has shifted away from pure gang conflicts to interpersonal conflicts,” said Buslik. “Then it’s not a question of geography.”

And social media is exacerbating tensions.

Environment matters

Skogan noted, “What happens on the highways in Chicago, to some extent, mirrors what is happening in the neighborhoods around them.

The Clayton assassination is still unsolved. For her daughter, “it’s hard to find peace because her killer is still out there,” Shelton said.

Chicago Police used to patrol highways in their area of ​​responsibility and investigate shootings, but over time, those responsibilities have been turned over to state police, Skogan and Buslik said.

A state police-provided review of the 2021 Expressway shootings in January and February found that a majority took place in Chicago.

Meanwhile, the total number of shootings in Chicago stood at 2,801 as of Wednesday, up from 2,519 in the same period in 2020, the Chicago Police Department reported. Compared to two years ago, the shootings have increased by 68%.

In February, the Illinois State Police announced that $ 12.5 million in government funds would be used to purchase and install automatic license plate readers at 47 locations on Cook County’s highways to aid the investigation into shootings.

The agency has several ongoing initiatives to combat highway violence, including special teams dedicated to this mission, Garcia said.

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