Ald. Rue Simmons holds Fifth Ward meeting in light of recent shootings

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Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th). Simmons held a Fifth Ward meeting to listen to residents’ feedback in response to recent shootings.

Julia Richardson, Reporter

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) held a meeting Tuesday for Fifth Ward residents to discuss gun violence and crime in light of the shootings from this past weekend.

Twenty-one-year-old Deashawn Turner and 29-year-old Andrew Williams died in two separate shootings, both of which occurred in the Fifth Ward. Just last Thursday, a shooting in the Eighth Ward resulted in the death of 20-year-old Glenview resident Brian Carrion and in injuries to a 21-year-old Evanston man.

“Safety is our number one priority… convicting those that are committing gun crimes is a priority,” Rue Simmons said to her constituents. “I wanted to let you know directly that I’m working on it, I’m committed to it.”

Evanston Police Chief Demitrous Cook said the North Regional Major Crimes Task Force and the Evanston Police Department have been working to investigate the shootings, have been in touch with parents of the victims and have deployed social workers to aid with trauma recovery for residents impacted by the incidents. The department has been holding daily briefings, which include around 70 investigators, to provide updates on the investigations. Cook said he has also been in contact with the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department about tracking down the individuals who committed the crimes.

Evanston has seen a spike in homicides in the past four to five years, a trend officers are working to understand. Cook said he regrets the lack of communication from EPD with residents following past incidents and hopes this time is different. He encouraged residents to come forward with any information they may have regarding the shootings, which they can do anonymously. He also said EPD will be working with Crime Stoppers to set up rewards for those who do come forward.

“It’s all of our responsibility as community members in this town,” Cook said. “We need to stand up for the safety of each other and ensure that we get these people to justice.”

Officers suspect gang activities are tied to the recent incidents of gun violence. Sergeant James Pillars, who supervises Evanston’s gang and drug team, provided residents with an update. The gang and drug team, a group of six detectives who monitor gang crimes and drug sales, uses a variety of techniques to gather gang intelligence. As of 2019, Pillars said the team had identified 274 registered gang members in Evanston, 75 to 100 of which are “key players.” There are six gang factions stretching from Evanston to East Rogers Park and into Edgewater, many of which have been feuding for years.

In response to a resident’s question about the requirements needed to arrest people thought to be affiliated with gangs, Pillars said an eyewitness is most helpful. While video evidence is helpful and can help lead to an arrest, the decision to arrest is ultimately up to the State’s Attorney Office.

“We appreciate when people call, and you know, they were there, they observed what happened and they are able to tell us the story. That can only take us so far,” he said. “More than anything, we need an eyewitness who is willing to go on the record and testify at court of what they saw.”

Another resident brought up using social media to track younger gang members through their posts. Cook said EPD has individuals who specialize in social media intelligence, however the groundwork still has to be done in getting witness statements and identifying people who will testify in court.

Evanston’s Community Services Manager Audrey Thompson also spoke to residents about youth outreach and what is being done in an attempt to steer young people in the right direction. She said much of the work involves engaging young people in opportunities.

“We really enlist the support of the community in really making sure that you all partner with us and become outreach as well,” she said. “So when the time is right and we continue to approach young people… we have opportunities to provide that say there are different ways… to get what you need, to get what you want.”

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