Four months after an extremely violent weekend in Chicago, neighborhood residents would feel reassured if suspects were locked up and all cases closed.
If only that were so.
There were 40 shooting incidents the weekend of Aug. 4 — at least 75 people were shot, 13 of them fatally. Chicago hadn’t endured such a savage stretch in years. It’s now December, and the Chicago Police Department has made just three known arrests. Which likely means most of the shooters are still on the streets.
So how about CPD detectives: Are they also still on the streets? Have they canvassed neighborhoods in relentless efforts to crack these cases? The answer, troublingly, is unclear. Tribune reporters Annie Sweeney and Jeremy Gorner determined that after one of the shooting incidents that weekend, police never followed up with multiple witnesses. “We’ve got to take ownership of what we didn’t do right,” Deputy Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan acknowledged.
What’s going on here? Chicago’s gun violence crisis has two aspects: the shootings, followed by efforts to arrest offenders. CPD’s track record for solving these cases is abysmal. According to Sweeney and Gorner, through September police had arrested or identified suspects in about 17 percent of all homicides that had occurred so far in 2018. That’s the same rate as last year, the lowest so-called clearance rate for killings in several years. This year’s clearance rate for nonfatal shootings is an anemic 6.5 percent.
To understand the challenges as CPD investigates shootings, Tribune reporters are keeping close watch on the aftermath of the August weekend. One incident occurred around 12:50 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 5, on Karlov Avenue near Iowa Street west of Humboldt Park. Gunfire erupted during a party, with shots exchanged between someone in a dark blue Cadillac and people on the street. As many as 80 casings from seven guns were scattered across the block. Four people were shot then. And now? No arrests made.
Lori Pierson was on her couch watching television when she heard gunfire. She hit the deck, then peeked outside. Pierson saw some of what happened, yet police never did a follow-up interview with her. Some residents were contacted, but others didn’t hear from detectives or observe any canvassing work.
Shootings in Chicago — many of them gang-related — aren’t easy cases to solve. Often it’s violent chaos in motion. Shots come from gangways, from moving vehicles, from somewhere down the block. When bullets start flying in formation, some people are intended victims but others get struck accidentally. Sirens sound. Perpetrators flee. Witnesses can be reluctant to speak up.
CPD knows it must do a better job of policing. More residents in high-crime areas would be willing to help if relations were better between the department and community members, but trust has been broken due to past incidents of police abuse and intimidation meted out by gangbangers.
Then there’s the investigative response: Is the department properly staffed to solve these cases? The day after the Tribune story about the Karlov incident appeared, CPD announced that it would add 50 sergeants to supervise detectives investigating violent crimes, including shootings and homicides. CPD also plans to bring in experts from the Los Angeles Police Department and U.S. Department of Justice. We trust that Chicago’s cops will listen to the outsiders with open minds — just as they expect officers in other departments to listen when CPD gang officers and other specialists travel the country to share their techniques.
Chicago cannot continue to be a battleground. Preventing shootings from happening would be ideal. Making arrests in as many cases as possible is mandatory.
Four months after violent shootout, residents of one proud Chicago block still waiting for answers from police »
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Examining Chicago police clearance rates for the most violent weekend of 2018 »
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