Expressway shootings drop significantly in 2022 across Chicago, state police report

Three people were killed in expressway shootings last year compared with 24 in 2021, ISP says. The agency cites increased patrols and investment in technology.

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Vehicles travel northbound and southbound on the Kennedy Express. Illinois State Police officials responded to the large number of expressway shootings in 2021 by investing in license plate readers, hiring troopers and adding air operations.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Gun violence on Chicago-area expressways decreased in 2022 compared with the prior year, which was among the most violent in recent memory, according to the Illinois State Police.

Three people were killed in expressway shootings last year across the city compared with the 24 who died in 2021.

Non-fatal shootings dropped from 119 to 60, and the number of shootings reported on expressways fell almost by half from 264 to 140.

Last year’s dramatic decline followed a sharp spike in 2021, which prompted the state to create initiatives seeking to beef up patrols and the use of technology and strategic policing beginning in October of that year.

“After an unprecedented number of expressway shootings in the Chicago area in 2021, the Illinois State Police mobilized resources agency-wide, including troopers, Air Operations, forensic services and criminal investigation special agents,” ISP Director Brendan Kelly said in a statement.

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The Chicago Anti-Violence Detail initiative, launched in October 2021, relocated troopers from around the state to strengthen patrols in the Chicago area.

Since then, ISP has mobilized up to 110 additional troopers per month across the city to provide a heightened presence and visibility along “key expressways,” while also assisting the agency’s Chicago district with handling calls for service, department spokesperson Melaney Arnold said.

“These anti-violence details free up troopers to conduct proactive and targeted missions,” she said. “The increased presence has shown reductions in shooting-related incidents while deployed.”

Illinois also has hired around 415 troopers across the state since 2019, and it is currently recruiting 300 more troopers, the agency said.

The 264 reported shootings in 2021 — up from 128 in 2020 and 52 in 2019 — also catalyzed state police to create the Statewide Anti-Violence Enforcement, or SAVE, unit in February of last year.

“SAVE unit members perform focused-based policing in problem areas by way of intense saturation using intelligence, existing technology, and leveraging ties with various local, state and federal agencies to ‘laser’ focus on violent criminals,” Arnold said.

Further, aiming to “detect and deter crime,” the addition of license plate readers and high-definition surveillance cameras along expressways proved to be another tool to contribute to the encouraging statistics, state police have said.

The Tamara Clayton Expressway Camera Act, signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2020, required the state to install new cameras on expressways. The act was named for a postal worker who was fatally shot on her way to work on Interstate 57 in 2019.

The state installed about 100 cameras along Interstate 94 in 2021. About 290 cameras had been set up by the end of 2022 along Interstates 55, 57, 90, 94, 290 and 294. Another 50 are planned to be installed on I-55 and I-94, state police said.

Meanwhile in 2022, traffic stops on Chicago expressways nearly doubled — from around 14,000 in 2021 to almost 26,000. But it led to roughly the same amount of arrests each year, at slightly more than 1,500.

The more traffic stops, however, resulted in state police seizing 342 guns, which was 145 more than the 197 recovered in 2021.

Stolen vehicle recoveries also soared over the preceding year by more than 230%. State police retrieved 615 stolen vehicles in 2022, compared with about 180 recovered in 2021.

So far this year, at least one shooting has been reported on a Chicago expressway, according to state police. Shots were allegedly fired about 10:55 p.m. Jan. 2 in the southbound lanes of I-94 near Michigan Avenue. No injuries were reported.

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