Chicago area expressway shootings more than doubled in 2020 – and still climbing

WGN Investigates

CHICAGO — The recent spike in Chicago gun violence is not limited to the city’s residential streets and commercial corridors, but bustling expressways as well.

WGN Investigates obtained data from the Illinois State Police that show the number of shootings on Chicago area expressways more than doubled from 2019 to 2020, jumping from 52 to 128.

And even after the surge in gunfire last year, the number of shootings on area expressways continues to climb in 2021. Through mid-July, the ISP tallied 133 shootings on local highways.

In those 261 shootings that occurred over the last 18 months, ISP has made 25 arrests and considers 44 of those cases “closed.”

Several factors can lead to a case being labeled as “closed.”

“Closed is defined in many ways but generally speaking: all investigative leads have been exhausted, prosecution was declined (and it is not pending further follow up), uncooperative victim(s) (which a form may be signed indicating the victim is refusing to cooperate with the investigation), deceased suspect, or the case is not deemed to be a legitimate complaint after a thorough investigation,” ISP spokeswoman Sgt. Delila Garcia said in an emailed statement.

According to ISP data, between 2016 and mid-2021, 14 shootings occurred on I-57 near 127th Street —more than at any other single location in the ISP’s Chicago District.

Gwendolyn Pinkney has lived just a stone’s throw away from that very spot for 15 years. She says that the uptick in gunfire on the expressway is impossible to ignore.

“It was quiet, we didn’t have to worry about shooting, we didn’t hear any of that,” Pinkney said. “This past couple years it’s started to get worse and get more and more. It’s kinda scary that you hear these shots because you don’t know if something’s going to fly past you or anything.”

“You hear shot after shot and it’s not like one or two,” she added. “It’s like multiple shots you hear in the background. You’ll be like ‘Oh, my God, I hope none of them come over this way.’ It’s just a bunch of ‘em.”

A 2019 shooting on I-57 — not far from 127th Street —claimed the life of postal worker Tamara Clayton. Her case remains unsolved.

The Tamara Clayton Expressway Camera Act went into effect last year and requires ISP, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority “to conduct a program to increase the number of cameras along expressways in Cook County.”

Earlier this year, IDOT allocated $12.5 million to ISP “for the purchase and installation of automated license plate readers and software to aid in the investigation of Cook County expressway shootings,” according to a statement from ISP.

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