Recent gun violence prompts Evanston Police Department to heighten patrolling, social media efforts

Marissa Page, City Editor

In response to a recent string of gun violence, Evanston police Chief Richard Eddington announced plans to beef up police patrolling in specific areas with the hope of deterring such crimes.

Eddington detailed the plan, which includes greater visibility of patrolling officers and social media alerts via Facebook and Twitter to officers’ whereabouts, at a 2nd Ward community meeting last week.

“High visibility is just what it says,” Evanston Police Department spokesman Perry Polinski said. “More officers in uniform in marked cars, more supervisors on the street. Instead of plainclothes officers, they’ll be in uniform out on the street.”

Four recent reports of shots fired, which occurred throughout the city within a span of a week from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2, spurred EPD to consider new tactics to address gun violence in the city, Eddington told The Daily.

“Those four events have sparked an increased level of concern by city officials regarding this cluster of shootings in a short time frame,” Eddington said. “All of these were daytime shootings except (one) … so three of the four.”

Eddington added that the Jan. 19 killing of Bo Bradford-Mandujano, a 20-year-old Evanston resident, had an impact in the department’s decision to ramp up police patrolling, but stressed that particular incident was a “standalone” and not “interrelated to any other ongoing conflicts.”

Carolyn Murray, a local advocate for gun control whose 19-year-old son was fatally shot in Evanston just over three years ago, expressed concern that the department’s efforts would not be sufficient in curtailing these crimes.

“You need to strategically plan against urban crime appropriately,” Murphy said. “We have seen an influx of shootings and homicides at different times, but because the urban criminals have gotten so out of control they think that they can shoot at any time, night or day.”

Examining social media interactions, Murray said, is critical in addressing how to prevent gun violence. She said threats are sometimes made via social media, and said she was frustrated that in previous instances, no legal action had been taken against the offenders.

Eddington said that while the police department does investigate these types of threats over social media, it is ultimately up to the state’s attorney to determine whether the comment warranted prosecution.

“We’re butting up against free speech and several other technical issues with proving who sent the message,” he said. “Was it just a general utterance or did someone threaten someone specifically? I realize many members of the community are frustrated but we can’t put that case together that’s not a prosecutable case in Illinois, and that’s not my opinion — it’s the state’s attorney’s office who review the case.”

Both police and Murray agreed that focusing deployment efforts on problematic areas — which Eddington said were “city-wide” but particularly focused in the 2nd, 5th and 8th Wards — was an important part of strategizing to combat gun violence.

“If you pull up the research on gunshots being fired in our neighborhood you can predict the next homicide or the next gunshots being fired,” Murray said. “These are criminals. They don’t have (Firearm Owners Identification) cards, they don’t have concealed carry, so when they’re shooting they’re in … the vicinity of where their guns are (kept).”

Eddington emphasized, however, that although the effort to hone in on these areas will help reduce crime, gun violence of this nature is difficult to track. He said through EPD’s violence reduction initiative, in which department members travel door-to-door to recover guns as well as operate a 24/7 gun buyback program, the department has recovered 43 illegal guns since Sept. 5.

“A lot of this violence has transcended traditional conflicts,” Eddington said. “This is way more complicated because, if you and I don’t like each other, and we’re going to shoot each other on sight, police have no idea what (our patterns) of movement is and when our movements cross, there’s violence.”

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