With Highway Shootings Increasing, State Police Beefs Up Patrols

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Illinois Sate Police officers look for evidence after a shooting on the Dan Ryan on Friday. | Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune

Saturday, May 21, 2016 || By Michael Romain 

The May 19 shooting on the Dan Ryan Expressway, which left a truck driver injured, was the 20th incident of gun violence on Cook County interstate highways this year, according to the Illinois State Police.

The number of highway shootings in the county is more than double the number that took place in 2012, when nine shootings happened that year. In 2013 and 2014, 19 and 37 highway shootings took place, respectively, according to state police data that was included in a May 21 Chicago Tribune article.

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The increase has both state and Chicago police on alert.

While Chicago police will ramp up its enforcement presence near entrance ramps, particularly on the Dan Ryan, the state police will increase its uniformed patrol officers and undercover operations, including aerial surveillance. Both law enforcement agencies will be communicating with each other in real time, officials said.

The most recent shooting incident that happened on the Eisenhower Expressway was in February, when a 19-year-old man was shot in the leg while riding westbound on I-290 near Racine, according to media reports.

That same month, state police announced that they would beef up patrols and undercover operations.

Law enforcement officials say the increased shootings, while still anomalies, are typically the result of Chicago’s gun violence spilling onto the highway. The exact nature of that violence, which some law enforcement officials describe as gang-related, is debatable.

“It’s not just that the highways have become the killing site, it’s just that the boundaries have disappeared,” Chico Tillmon, a program manager for the anti-violence organization CeaseFire, told the Tribune this month.

Tillmon said the violence often starts in the city’s neighborhoods, where shootings are considered the societal norm, and lead onto the expressway while targeted persons are attempting to flee the conflict.

In February, state police Col. Tad Williams told the Tribune that the increased highway shooting was attributable to gang violence.

John Hagedorn, a University of Illinois at Chicago criminology professor, disputed that rough characterization.

“There are no ‘highway’ gang wars or anything special about highway shootings,” Hagedorn told the Tribune. “I know it could be a good and scary story, but I don’t see any deeper reason for an increase in this kind of shooting” other than that it’s just an extension of Chicago’s increasing gun violence, which Tillmon called a “disease.” VFP

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