Focus on expressway shootings after 2021 spike results in 20 arrests

Charges include first-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated discharge of a firearm and aggravated fleeing and eluding.

The crackdown began Oct. 1, 2021, after an unprecedented spike in violence last year, particularly on the Dan Ryan and Eisenhower expressways, the Bishop Ford Freeway and Interstate 57. Shootings more than doubled in two years, with 147 in 2020 compared to 310 in 2021,a Daily Herald analysis found. So far, there have been 14 expressway crimes in 2022, the state police reported.

"Without a doubt, expressway shootings have been singular in their complexity and degree of difficulty when it comes to investigating," state police Director Brendan F. Kelly said.

"Most crime scenes are not moving at 70, 80 or 90 mph with hundreds of vehicles traveling through them. The debris fields may stretch for several hundred yards or even a mile. The victims are often uncertain exactly where the incident even occurred, and witnesses are a challenge to locate."

This fall, Kelly deployed troopers from across Illinois to focus on the Chicago region, and the state has installed 99 license plate readers on the Dan Ryan with 200 more to come, which helped with investigations, he said.

The agency's Air Operations Team has also used its helicopters to track hijacked vehicles and quickly respond to searches.

"Drivers have had bullets come through their windshields, maiming or killing someone who's just trying to get from Point A to Point B," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a briefing Monday, tying the rise in occurrences to the COVID-19 pandemic. "These are crimes that are often spilling over from criminal activity or gang disputes that began in Chicago neighborhoods."

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