Chicago: Where Crime Scenes Increasingly Have Lane Markers

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
chicago where crime scenes increasingly have lane markers

There’s no shortage of ink spilled about the sky-high murder rate in Chicago, but the Windy City’s most overlooked crime scene isn’t a particular neighborhood or address. It’s the freeway.

In a year where Chicago homicides hit a 20-year high (762, up 57 percent from 2015), shootings on the city’s freeways topped all previous tallies. The city blames the increasing roadway bloodshed on rising gang violence, but the danger to motorists seems likely to rise if authorities can’t figure out a way to stamp out the problem.

According to Reuters, the total number of shootings on the city’s freeways totaled 47 in 2016, up from 37 the year before. Three of the shootings were fatal. To put those numbers into context, the city recorded 19 freeway shootings in 2014, 16 in 2013, and just nine in 2012 and 2011. Records only go back that far.

As murders skyrocketed in 2016, so too did shootings. The gun-unfriendly jurisdiction saw 1,100 more shootings last year than in 2015, a figure authorities blame on the increased flow of illegal guns into the city to back gang activities. Naturally, more of those bullets were fired from a car, at another car.

The Illinois State Police has called the freeway shootings “an extreme danger to the motoring public.”

There’s no doubt a serious problem exists, but dealing with it brings a new set of challenges. One proposed solution — stop-and-frisk — is a lightning rod for controversy. President-elect Trump recently called on Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel to bring the city’s violence under control, suggesting that a boosted stop-and-frisk policy was the cure.

Emanuel clearly didn’t appreciate the call-out by Trump. A spokesperson for the mayor stated Monday, “The federal government has a strong role to play in public safety by funding summer jobs and prevention programs for at-risk kids.”

While stop-and-frisk has existed in certain jurisdictions since the 1960s, Illinois began clamping down on its use last year in the wake of complaints about racial profiling. Proponents of civil liberties claim the practice is unconstitutional and ineffective. Early last year, ABC reported on the “ACLU effect” and its role in the drop in Chicago police street stops.

While the ISP launched its Chicago Expressway Anti-violence Surge in February, the use of aircraft, undercover officers and unmarked cars only led to one arrest last year.

Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has another take on the issue. He blames the violence on weak regulations for repeat gun offenders. “The people committing these crimes think the consequences for their actions are a joke,” he said last year.

Those who would likely fall on the side of greater respect for liberties still feel there’s a role for the police. In a May editorial, the Chicago Tribune advocated for a freeway version of the sometimes-controversial broken windows theory.

That theory, popularized in the 1980s — especially in crime-ridden New York City — claims that heavy monitoring of an area to prevent small crimes (broken windows, for example) can prevent larger crimes. Without that enforcement and constant upkeep, the environment could be invaded by criminals who view the area as lawless, or so the theory goes.

“The way to improve those odds (of gun seizure or arrest) is, in the expressway example, to stop more motorists,” the Tribune stated. “And Illinois’ vehicle code offers plenty of reasons for law enforcement to have more contacts with drivers — the expired registration sticker, the broken taillight, the rear license plate that isn’t visible from 50 feet away at night.

“For most of us, broken windows policing on roadways encourages the motorists around us to respond with safer driving. For a few criminals who’ve behaved with impunity, though, it could mean gun seizures, imprisonment — and no more shots fired.”

Of course, the key word here is “could.” There’s no guarantee that blanket enforcement of minor violations would rid Chicago’s freeways of gun-happy criminals. The sole benefit could be fuller coffers, thanks to the increased fine revenue. Still, existing ideas haven’t made much of a dent in the crime level, so any new idea has at least some weight.

[Image: Wikimedia Commons ( CC BY-SA 2.0)]

Join the conversation
4 of 164 comments
  • Pecos bill Pecos bill on Jan 05, 2017

    TTAC: Just another political blog.

    • See 1 previous
    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Jan 05, 2017

      Unfortunately yes this segment has grown significantly over the past about two years.

  • Ghostwhowalksnz Ghostwhowalksnz on Jan 06, 2017

    Firstly Chicago isnt the murder capital of US , its way down at 21st. secodly the FBI only collects data from places with over 100k population , so their could be some small counties with even higher murder rates ( per head of population than those cities) eg Hunt County Tx, murders 11, rate is 12.6 well above Chicago or Jefferson Co AR, 13 murders and rates 17.4

  • Jeff S If AM went away I would listen to FM but since it is insignificant in the cost to the car and in an emergency broadcast it is good to have. I agree with some of the others its another way to collect money with a subscription. AM is most likely to go away in the future but I will use AM as long as its around.
  • BEPLA I think it's cool the way it is.If I had the money, time and space - I'd buy it, clean it up, and just do enough to get it running properly.Then take it to Cars and Coffee and park it next to all the newer Mustangs.
  • Dave M. I suppose Jethro’s farm report comes via AM, but there’s a ton of alternative ways to get that info. Move forward people. Progress is never easy.
  • BEPLA For anything but the base model, I'd rather have a pre-owned Polestar 2.
  • BEPLA "Quality is Job........well, it's someone's job, but it's not our job.Neither is building vehicles that people actually want or need.We only build what's most profitable. If only someone would buy our 97 day supply of SuperDutys."