City officials discuss violence in West Side Evanston after shots fired incident


Elena Sucharetza/The Daily Northwestern

Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington speaks to community members Thursday about a shots-fired incident near Evanston Township High School the previous day. Eddington said the incident should not be a cause for alarm for residents and spoke along with aldermen about ongoing community efforts to decrease violence.

Elena Sucharetza, Assistant City Editor

After Evanston residents voiced concerns about safety around Evanston Township High School following a shots fired incident Wednesday, Police Chief Richard Eddington told members of the community they do not have reason to feel unsafe in the area.

At the Thursday meeting of the city’s 2nd Ward, residents expressed worry for students walking home from school after gunshot fire was heard at about 4:15 p.m. one block from ETHS. Two individuals were arrested in connection with the incident after police saw them run into a residence in the 1800 block of Lake Street following the sounds of gunshots. The pair both tested positive for gunshot residue.

One of the arrested Evanston residents, a 16-year-old boy, was charged Thursday with five felonies — among them aggravated discharge of a firearm and possession of a firearm by a street gang member. Police are unaware of any victims in the incident.

A gun-related homicide in September — the most recent in Evanston this year — also occurred about one block from ETHS.

Eddington told meeting attendees that crime analysts have not identified any potential patterns in the area that should be a cause for alarm.

“This is not an isolated incident, but it is focused,” Eddington said. “The event is a continuation of a conflict between two gangs that frequent the West Side of Evanston. We received statements from two gentlemen in custody that alluded to it being an ongoing issue.”  

The issue should be characterized as gang violence rather than a turf war because the conflicts are mainly rooted in interpersonal slights, Eddington said. He said he characterizes the conflicts as being a part of personal insults within groups that escalate to violence when other forms of conflict resolution are ignored.   

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) said although the community is trying to decrease gun violence, resources must be allocated to programs that address issues such as poverty or joblessness that could drive somebody to violence.  

“I’m a firm believer that even one murder is too many,” Braithwaite said. “We have a 24-hour gun buyback program and we have devoted a tremendous amount of resources to the West Side of Evanston to keep us safe.”  

One long-term initiative for reducing community violence is the Youth and Youth Adult Division, which aims to give Evanston youth marketable skills they can utilize to be active members of the community. City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said because this division’s progress is critical to anti-violence efforts, it was granted immunity in discussions surrounding the 2016 budget, which is vulnerable to major state cuts.

“We’ve added mostly nothing to this budget, but we added resources to this program,” Bobkiewicz said.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said a potential obstacle to community safety measures is the legal web involved with protecting landlords and their tenants. Regarding the arrests at the Lake Street home on Wednesday, Wilson said landlords should take more responsibility in removing problematic tenants. However, it is often difficult to prove tenant misconduct, he said.

Braithwaite agreed with Wilson that aldermen should discuss ways to hold landlords more responsible for their tenants’ actions.  

“The reality is that people causing most of this violence don’t live in North Evanston, they don’t live on the lakefront — they live where many of us live,” Braithwaite said. “We are talking about less than 50 kids that have the mentality that they are willing to take a life, and we know where they live and we know where the landlords are that allow this.”

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