Facing expressway shootings, Chicago prepares for a different kind of Memorial Day

While most of the nation honors Memorial Day with grateful memories of our military men and women who gave their all for the nation, too many families in Chicago, Illinois will be holding a different sort of memorial service. Gang violence continues at an increasing pace, with murders and shootings escalating even more than expected and spilling out from the usual neighborhoods onto the main expressways. In preparation for a long, hot and potentially dangerous weekend, the police are out in force hoping to cut some of the mayhem off at the pass. (ABC News)

There have already been 20 shootings on area expressways this year, compared with 12 over the same period of 2015. Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz said at a news conference Thursday that he would be sending out more troopers in marked and unmarked vehicles over the holiday weekend and would have planes overhead ready to radio down about signs of gun violence.

The Chicago Police Department said it will dispatch detectives to every expressway shooting scene to assist state troopers in their investigations — an acknowledgment that gangs are taking their violent clashes from the city streets to the expressways.

“A lot of these expressway shootings go from verbal confrontations that happen inside the city and then the folks involved get on the expressways and go after each other,” said Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

The cops have their hands full and then some. Last year Chicago was witness to 153 homicides by the end of May. This year they’ve already reached 232 by the same date. The total number of shootings is similarly up to 1,167 versus 772 in 2015. If it’s not a record breaking clip, it’s going to be darned close unless something changes drastically.

But the focus of this report out of the Windy City isn’t simply on the sadly routine outbreaks of gang shootings in the usual neighborhoods. Dozens of incidents have now been recorded out on the expressways. The cops describe it as “routine” situations where opposing gang members get into a scuffle in their neighborhood but then carry the pursuit out onto the four lanes and keep on firing. Now the danger of imminent injury or death is spreading to commuters who aren’t going anywhere near the normal combat zones.

Deploying more unmarked cars and helicopters can’t hurt I suppose, but the additional highway checkpoints may be waste of time. The police will likely be immediately slapped with complaints about racial profiling or some other lawsuit in the making if they begin stopping and searching cars. And once the shooting starts, of course, it’s pretty much too late to do anything but hopefully either capture or take down the shooters. That doesn’t do much for the families of those caught in the cross-fire.

Something has got to give in Chicago soon. 232 murders in five months for a city that size is simply insane. And in the vast, vast majority of cases these aren’t people who are buying their guns at Dick’s Sporting Goods and going through a background check. As usual, the problem isn’t too many guns. It’s too many criminals. Here’s to hoping for a miraculously low death toll in Chi-Town over the holiday weekend.

Police Line