ALBANY PARK — Residents in Albany Park were again rattled by gunfire Wednesday night — while they were in a virtual meeting about the ongoing violence with police and elected officials.
This was the third public safety meeting in the area this week, and while neighbors threw more than 100 questions at officials, yet another man was killed and a police commander had to leave the meeting to respond.
At 6:20 p.m. Wednesday, a man was shot dead at 3627 W. Lawrence Ave., police said. On Tuesday night, five people were shot one block over. On Monday night, 26-year-old Ernie Perez was fatally shot at 3605 W. Argyle St.
In the past three days, seven people have been wounded or killed in the area.
In response to the gang-related violence, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has agreed to send more resources to the 17th Police District, Ald. Rossana Rodriguez (33rd) told neighbors Wednesday.
As of last week, there have been seven homicides and 44 shootings in the area this year, a big jump from the five homicides and 20 shootings the district recorded in all of 2019.
Neighbors again questioned staffing levels in the 17th District, Wednesday night, which is the “lowest manned district” in the city, officers said. Others asked why there weren’t gang units to address the conflicts.
“At this time they are detailed out but elected officials are trying to bring the resources back,” police said.
Rodriguez said some of these units were moved Downtown due to the ongoing protests and civil unrest over police misconduct, but she expects them to return to the district to respond to the ongoing violence.
Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, Ald. Samantha Nugent (39th), State Reps. Ann Williams, John D’Amico and Jamie Andrade Jr. and State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz wrote to Lightfoot, Deputy Mayor Susan Lee and Police Supt. David Brown to request:
• Immediate deployment of specialized tactical/gang units to address ongoing gang violence issues.
• Installation of cameras and ShotSpotter technology in high-crime areas.
• Increased staffing for the 17th District “until this wave of violence is under control.”
• Increase “troubled building” enforcement in the area.
Rodriguez and Andrade have also requested more funding for street intervention — violence interrupters who work to prevent shootings and gang conflicts while mediating on the ground.
“I just got off the phone with the mayor and she said that there are resources that are being sent back to the district,” Rodriguez told neighbors during the meeting.
It was not immediately clear which of those resources would be forthcoming.
The move appears to satisfy demands from Albany Park and Ravenswood Manor neighbors who, for months, have urged local leaders for immediate interventions to curb shootings in the area.
District Cmdr. Ronald A. Pontecore Jr. said there are “about 10 different gang conflicts happening in this area.”
“Unfortunately, this corridor down Lawrence Avenue seems to be the epicenter of events. I do want to let you know we have extra resources out there tonight,” Pontecore said.
Rodriguez — who supports cutting funding to the Police Department and investing in science-based anti-violence measures — previously spoke to Lee to ask the city to expand its $6 million in funding to street outreach programs to violence hot spots in Albany Park, Ravenswood Manor and Irving Park.
Lightfoot agreed to send violence interrupters to the area to help curb the gun violence, Rodriguez said.
Violence interruption programs are “incredibly effective,” Rodriguez said, but they also depend on relationships that are already built within a community.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time for those resources, when they come in, to look for those relationships to help mitigate the violence,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez and Andrade have also asked the city to increase funding to address the uptick in shootings in the short term. Williams also wants more immediate action.
“We’re a progressive community and we’re concerned about systemic criminal justice issues and police reform and we want alternative strategies for prevention,” Williams told Block Club ahead of Wednesday’s meeting. “But when a shooting happens at a day care, you need to take some action while also still looking at long-term strategies to prevent this.”
Some neighbors argued during the meeting that the city should focus on either more police or more street outreach, not both. Nugent, whose ward also is in the district and has seen more shootings, rejected that idea.
“No, it is not mutually exclusive to me. We need to arrest these folks and take away their guns. It’s ridiculous,” Nugent said. “And if we can do some of these other measures contemporaneously, so be it.”
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