Expressway shootings dropped by nearly 40% in 2022. Here's why and where they occurred.
After an eruption of violence in 2021, expressway shootings dropped by nearly 40% in 2022, Illinois State Police data shows.
Reports of highway gunplay, almost all in Chicago and the suburbs, surged to 310 in 2021, sparking outrage and prompting installation of cameras that capture license plates.
Total occurrences in 2022 declined to 189, which is still higher than the 2020 tally of 147 shootings. As of Sunday, one shooting had occurred in the new year.
Harper College criminologist Frank Trost hailed the positive trend but cautioned against attributing it to any single factor. Crimes involve individuals making their own choices, the former Elgin Police Department commander said.
"You could have one person that was involved in gang activity, one person that was overwhelmed and reacted violently to something as simple as tailgating," Trost said.
The bulk of 2022 shootings occurred in Chicago and the South suburbs. The most hazardous highways included the Dan Ryan Expressway, with 53 of the 189 shootings; I-57, with 31; the Bishop Ford, with 20; and the Eisenhower Expressway, with 17. The Kennedy Expressway had six shootings.
On the tollways, eight shootings were reported on the Tri-State (I-294) in 2022, and one each on the Reagan Memorial (I-88) and Jane Addams (I-90).
Of the 189 reported shootings, four were fatal and 74 resulted in injuries. The violence touched the suburbs -- with one person dying after a shooting Aug. 14 on I-88 near Oak Brook, and others injured in occurrences Feb. 23 on the Euclid Road ramp to Route 53 near Rolling Meadows and May 1 on I-294 near Willowbrook.
In 2021, the state began installing expressway cameras with automatic license plate readers, initially focusing on the Dan Ryan. So far, 289 cameras are operational; 285 are in Cook County and four are installed in Winnebago County, Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Delila Garcia said.
The agency "continues to install additional cameras on expressways in the Chicagoland area," she saida.
The General Assembly passed legislation in 2022 to deploy more cameras in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will and 16 other counties.
Alex Gough, a spokesman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker, said that since 2019 "417 troopers have graduated from the ISP Academy and joined the ranks. This is a part of a multifaceted approach to reducing shootings and violence on Chicago expressways."
An increased police presence and technology are definite deterrents, especially if a potential offender sees a camera, Trost said.
Trost also thinks lifting COVID-19 restrictions has created a more positive environment for people with less stress and isolation, both of which can factor into criminal behavior.
When the COVID-19 lockdown started, it went from "'this is interesting' (to) 'wow, this is rough, places are closed, I can't do anything.' When things started opening up, I started feeling better. So there's a huge psychological impact."
Reader Frederick Slate of Glendale Heights worries that "pedestrians are getting bolder. I see people walking and jogging along streets where there is a perfectly acceptable sidewalk. Often at night they are dressed in dark clothing. I love the backup camera and alert system on my car because people will walk right behind it as I'm backing out of a parking space."
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