Recent incidents of violence in Elgin -- a murder and two reports of shots fired in the last nine days -- are not necessarily related and don't represent a significant increase in gang activity, Elgin police said during a community meeting Wednesday night.
About 50 people, mostly residents of Elgin's west side, attended the meeting hosted by the Elgin Gang & Drug Task Force at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren.
The task force comprises 15 to 20 community agencies including the police department, Boys & Girls Club of Elgin, VNA Health Center, YWCA Elgin and many more.
The meeting was designed to talk about violence in the wake of the March 26 murder of Alexis Huerta, 19, who was found dead on the 200 block of Silver Court what police say was a gang-related shooting. One report of shots fired came later that same evening and the second one on Tuesday, all in different locations.
The investigation into Huerta's murder is ongoing, Elgin Police Sgt. Jim Lullo said.
"We are working very diligently right now," he said.
Police are also investigating the reports of shots fired, but they're not necessarily related to Huerta's murder, Lullo said.
"Sometimes through coincidence, sometimes through feuds or whatever else, you get a cyclical increase and decrease in violence in the area," Elgin Police Lt. Jeff Adam said.
Last year, Elgin posted a 40-year low in violent crime, he pointed out.
Elgin police are currently working on filing a second lawsuit against a gang, after one filed in 2010 against the Latin Kings, Lullo said. He declined to name the specific gang.
As a result of the first lawsuit, police can arrest Latin Kings gang members who are barred from being in contact with each other.
Huerta's death "hit home," said Ricardo Gasca, prevention coordinator for Renz Addiction Counseling Center and program coordinator for the task force.
Renz has school-based programs for kids as young as fifth grade, and Huerta attended one such program at South Elgin High School, Gasca said.
"Nowadays it doesn't take a family to raise a child, it takes a community to raise a child," Gasca said.
Parents have to monitor their children and be alert to signs of possible gang activity, such as wearing specific colors and making gang-related drawings, Lullo said.
"Sometimes, you have to take a step back as a parent and realize there's a different side to your kid," Adam said.
Police also encouraged residents to call police if they observe anything suspicious or see kids skipping school.
Elgin resident Sharon Burner said she was concerned about any possible drug cartel activity in Elgin.
"I'm not saying there aren't, but I'm not saying it's a large presence either," Lullo said.
Burner said she hoped for more detail, but still found the meeting helpful.
"I appreciate very much these kinds of events. We can only work at this a little bit at a time," she said.
This Saturday, residents can turn in unwanted, unloaded firearms and ammunition during a "Lock-and-Drop" gun safety event from 1 to 5 p.m. at the police department, 151 Douglas Ave. No questions will be asked.
Elgin police also encourage residents to sign up for the "code red" program, which alerts residents via text, email or phone call to emergencies and criminal activity in their neighborhood. To do that, visit cityofelgin.org/codered.
Meeting: Residents can turn in guns, ammunition Saturday at the Elgin Police Department