After violent weekend, Chicago PD ups patrols
By Annie Sweeney and Frank Main
CHICAGO — A spike in Chicago shootings that made national news over the weekend was caused in part by a gang war that flared on the South Side, police said.
And police plan to respond with gun, tactical and gang teams — even SWAT officers in battle gear.
Police Supt. Jody Weis planned to deploy SWAT as part of summer patrols, but the department is accelerating the plan because of the weekend's shootings.
"We haven't done this in a while,'' department spokeswoman Monique Bond said. "It's an aggressive message that law enforcement is taking this very seriously. At this point ... we have to take necessary measures to demonstrate that violence will not be tolerated. Sometimes a visible presence sends a louder message.''
The unofficial weekend tally of 36 shootings over Friday, Saturday and Sunday was 14 more than the city experienced last year at the same time, police said. Seven people were killed.
Of the 36 shootings, 14 were classified as gang-related, Bond said. Seven juveniles were among the victims, including five who were out beyond curfew. So far this year, 21 Chicago Public Schools students have been shot to death.
One seasoned officer described the three days as "triage'' -- with detectives rushing from shooting to shooting.
Of the 36 shootings, 19 happened in the Wentworth Area that stretches south of downtown and west along the Stevenson Expy. The rest of the shootings were spread out among the remaining four detective areas of the city.
One law enforcement source said a new faction of Gangster Disciples that moved into the area's Englewood neighborhood is vying for control against longer-established members of the gang. In addition to the shootings, home invasions also have escalated, the source said.
On Monday, sources said the Englewood gang dispute was simmering for several months and the warm weather likely sparked the violence.
About 10 of the shootings occurred in Gangster Disciples-controlled areas of the Englewood police district and on the east side of the adjacent Chicago Lawn police district, also in the Wentworth Area.
Many of those victims were affiliated with gangs, police said.
For instance, Raul Lemus, 28, a Latin Saints member, was fatally shot in an auto shop Sunday while waiting for repairs to a car. The gunman escaped in a getaway car, police said. Lemus was on parole for second-degree murder.
Last month, 70 percent of murder victims had arrest records, according to the latest police statistics.
The surge in shootings made national news after Weis addressed the problem at a news conference Sunday, noting the violent toll warm-weather months take.
Murders typically spike in mid-summer and tail off in the winter. In 2005, for example, there were 108 murders in June and July and 47 in December and January, police said.
Chicago is not yet on a track to see a huge overall increase in murders. So far this year, murders are down more than 1 percent compared with the same period of 2007.
And last year, Chicago slayings were at a pre-1966 level for the fourth year in a row.
Still, Mayor Daley called the weekend violence "unacceptable" and asked parents to pay more attention to their children.
"What we're asking parents to do," Daley said, "is know where your children are. It's going to be a long summer, and parents better capture this responsibility."
Copyright 2008 The Chicago Sun-Times
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