As the first day of school quickly approaches, parents are concerned about the safety of their children after yet another shooting in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood on Monday evening, injured 5 people, four of them identified by police as having gang ties.
The latest in a wave of gang related shootings in Uptown is located along the path of one of 600 Safe Passage routes in place to ensure student's safety as they travel back and forth to schools located in high crime neighborhoods. Chicago police say they are certain the shooting was gang related.
Uptown Update, a news and commentary blog has documented the escalating gang violence over the last few years, including several incidents largely ignored by Chicago finest. Neighborhood residents are able to share eye witness reports, home video and photos of all things Uptown to the community blog.
Chicago's 46th Ward Alderman, James Cappelman said on Tuesday that 19th District Police Commander Voulgaris confirmed that three of five victims have known gang affiliations, and one of the five victims is believed to be a homeless man.
Chicago Police and local businesses' surveillance video footage captured the shooting and has provided police with a clear image of the car used in the drive by shooting, which was recovered in front of nearby McCutcheon School on the 4800 block of Sheridan.
On Tuesday, a day after the second shooting in one week occurred along Safe Passage routes, Chicago's Mayor, Rahm Emanuel defended the Safe Passage program, emphasizing the importance of the controversial new program.
Mayor Emanuel called the Uptown shooting incident an early warning sign to keep those hired to ensure the students safety on their toes.
Critics of Mayor Emanuel's decision to close 50 public schools in June, are skeptical that the program will protect students forced to travel through gang ridden neighborhoods after their schools were closed in June. The unprecedented school closures affected 13, 000 children and their families, who will begin travelling along Safe Passage routes on August 26, to new schools in the 2013-2014 school year in Chicago.
In late June, six people were shot in a similar drive-by shooting, at a nearby strip mall in the Uptown neighborhood described by 46th Ward Alderman Cappelman as a “hot spot.”
In an email to 46th Ward residents on Tuesday, Cappelman said three police cars will be stationed in three of Uptown's "hot spots," 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Cappelman added:
"As we did with the Weiss Plaza area, which has been very quiet since June, I will be working with Commander Voulgaris, the foot patrol officers in this area, Community Justice Center, CAPS Beat Facilitators, local block clubs, social services and local businesses to come together and implement a plan to make this area safer."
One alternative employed by Uptown residents to deter gang activity is known as Positive Loitering, as a way for neighbors to meet each other and support the police by calling in suspicious activity, and aimed at discouraging negative loitering by gang members by making them feel uncomfortable.
Another measure employed by business owners in Uptown to combat gang violence has been hiring private security guards to patrol "hot spots."
The overwhelming majority of Uptown residents who post comments on the Uptown Update blog do not feel that anything is effectively addressing the increasing gang related shootings.
In 2010, gun violence more than tripled in the most dangerous parts of Uptown, police statistics show.
Chicago Police attribute the escalating violence to a long-running conflict among the Conservative Vice Lords, Gangster Disciples and Black P Stones street gangs. The Uptown Baptist Church, the scene of the latest shooting is at the center of turf wars between three rival gangs.
Chicago Police Lt. Robert Stasch, who supervises tactical unit officers in the Town Hall District, which includes Uptown says the conflicts are over turf, profit, and drug areas.