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Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) and his wife, Loretta, recently witnessed a shooting while traveling on an expressway in Chicago. He recounted the story while in town to attend a gathering of committee leaders at the Institute for Nonviolence, reports WBBM Newsradio on Oct. 1, 2021.
He told reporters he heard “a popping sound” that he could not identify. But, the person driving the vehicle knew; he said the noise was gunshots. As it turns out, the shooting came from the car next to them.
Unfortunately, events like the one Sen. Durbin spoke about are not uncommon. This year, shootings more than doubled on Chicago area highways.
Reports indicate that at least 185 of these incidents have occurred so far, which is more than double the shooting for the same period last year. During the first nine months in 2020, 83 shootings occurred; the entire year, there were 128 compared to 52 the year before.
Sen. Durbin visited the city’s South Side to announce federal funding of more than $2.3 million was awarded to the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. The purpose of the grant is to address the root cause of gun violence.
He explained, “We need to better understand the reasons why people make the decision to go get a gun and cause violence.” He further said the state needs to find effective programs to address the shootings.
On Twitter, Durbin wrote the funding came from the National Institute of Health. He added:
I was proud to help secure this funding that treats gun violence like the public health crisis that it is.
The same evening Illinois state troopers from around the state relocated to the city. The plan is to increase police presence by 157 percent during peak criminal activity times.
Illinois State Police (ISP) Director Brendan F. Kelly told reporters that the new concentrated gun violence levels in 2020 and 2021 need to be addressed. As a result, they decided to “dedicate the greatest resources to the greatest need, and right now the greatest need is here, on Chicago’s expressways.”
A grant of $12.5 million, provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation, was announced in February. The ISP will install high-definition surveillance cameras designed to read license plates to address the increase in expressway shootings. Director Kelly stated the cameras will be installed in 47 locations to collect evidence and hopefully deter crime.
In 2019, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Tamera Clayton Expressway Camera Law, named for a woman who was shot and killed on her way to work on Interstate 57. The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Thaddeus Jones (D-Calumet City), requires the state to install new cameras on the expressways. These are in addition to the existing low-definition cameras that do not record video.
At the time, Pritzker declared:
No one should feel afraid for their life or safety on Illinois expressways. Tamara Clayton’s tragic death must not be forgotten, and we must do everything we can to prevent more expressway shootings.
Representative Jones further explained:
The cameras will not necessarily stop the shootings on expressway [sic] but ‘will be used as a tool to catch those people who are using our expressways as their own personal shooting range.’
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
WBBM: Sen. Durbin witnesses shooting on busy Chicago roadway: ‘I heard a popping sound;’ Andy Dahn
WBBM: Illinois state police diverting troopers to Chicago expressways amid surge in shootings
Chicago Sun-Times: State police get $12 million for new cameras to combat spike in expressway shootings; by David Struett
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