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While overall crime seems to be heading down in Evanston over the past year or two, a series of violent and spectacular gun-related incidents across the City has led to questions about citizen safety, gun control, gangs, and community involvement before, during and after crimes have been committed.

Chief of Police Richard Eddington, in discussing ongoing investigations into nine Evanston shootings, spoke about the culture of gun violence as increasingly playing a role in conflict resolution, gun control as a solution, community involvement, and the challenges the Evanston police department faces in solving gun crimes.

A recurring theme in most shooting incidents in Evanston, according to Chief Eddington, is the increasingly rapid escalation to gunplay to resolve interpersonal disputes. “In the past those have been settled with pushing and shoving and a couple of punches thrown and we called it a day” in clashes between kids from rival high schools. Now kids bring guns, as they did to Davis Street on Aug. 7. “Unfortunately with a gun you get to ‘go’ relatively quickly,” said the Chief. Conflicts that used to result in fistfights now lead to kids shooting at each other, and often the shooters are not even old enough to drive.

The escalation to gunplay is not reserved just for the youth. As the shooting of Van Ross demonstrates, adults also pull out pistols when they used to throw punches. But the majority of shooting incidents involve teenagers who have managed to gain possession of handguns. And in many ways it is far easier to pull a trigger than it is to throw a punch.

Gun control would seem on the surface to be a solution or at least part of a solution to the problem of gun violence. Chief Eddington said, “Many of the controls that those Supreme Court [Heller and McDonald] decisions sought to overturn are still in place.” He believes in a model such as that attempted in Boston and Richmond, Virginia, in which increasing sanctions and clarity as to consequences can significantly reduce gun violence. In each recent incident, he notes, the gun used was not legally in the shooter’s possession under Illinois law. Access to guns, most often from outside the Chicago area, is another story, and outside Chief Eddington’s jurisdiction.

The community can and should play an important role in limiting gun violence. In several of the shootings discussed, community members were aware that either a shooter or a victim carried a firearm or engaged in activities likely to result in violent reprisals. Hearing a message that guns and crime lead to violent and tragic consequence from the Chief of Police is one thing, hearing it from community leaders is another.

The community can also intervene before kids ever get guns. The Chief describes himself as “a fanatic about the truancy ordinance” and the Community Accountability Board. It’s the “last best chance” to intercept kids before they get too far down a dangerous path, says the Chief. Once lost, criminal activity is an almost inevitable result. The police, generally speaking are familiar with the persons who engage in most of the antisocial behavior in the City.

Knowing who the bad actors are and proving it are two different things, however. “We live in a constitutional republic, and there’s rules,” said Chief Eddington. “It’s not what I know, but what I can prove.” Even though the Evanston Police Department believes it knows who is responsible for each of the shootings over the past year, arrest warrants have not issued in six of the nine incidents and the shooters continue to walk free. “We can’t suspend the rules just because we’re appalled,” said the Chief.

Increased camera coverage could help. Pointing in particular to the Davis Street shooting, the Chief said that the proposed new camera system could have proved invaluable. “Our best information comes from private security cameras,” he said. A more robust recording would probably confirm which of the various stories told to the police were true. Community involvement, particularly cooperation from the individual caught by the security camera taking a picture, possibly of the shooting, and then running away, could also help solve the Davis Street shooting. Community members could probably help solve other crimes as well.

Uncooperative witnesses and the “code of silence” or “no snitching” rules among certain groups seriously impairs police efforts to solve shootings. Chief Eddington sees two distinct versions of this “code”: that among the criminals and that among the community at large.

Serious drug dealers and gang members often view interaction with the criminal justice system as a cost of doing business. “Criminal justice repercussions in their world are much like how you and I view payroll taxes. It’s overhead,” explained Chief Eddington, even going to jail. For example, the Chief describes Leslie Calvin as “an interesting, interesting guy. If you talk to the cops who did business with Mr. Calvin, [he was] always respectful.” He was never disrespectful to the police, and, “Apparently, this got down to an armed conflict between the Gangster Disciples and the 4 Corner Hustlers. Outside that conflict, Mr. Calvin had people who said very nice things about him who knew him on an interpersonal basis… [making] it extremely difficult to come up with a one size fits all solution.”

A lack of cooperation with the police from the participants in a gang war who would “much rather take care of it themselves” is one thing, and understandable to the Chief. A lack of cooperation from the community at large is another, and harder to accept. Again, the Davis Street shooting, with so many witnesses captured on film and yet so few appearing at or calling

Chief of Police Richard Eddington, in discussing ongoing investigations into nine Evanston shootings, spoke about the culture of gun violence as increasingly playing a role in conflict resolution, gun control as a solution, community involvement, and the challenges the Evanston police department faces in solving gun crimes.

A recurring theme in most shooting incidents in Evanston, according to Chief Eddington, is the increasingly rapid escalation to gunplay to resolve interpersonal disputes. “In the past those have been settled with pushing and shoving and a couple of punches thrown and we called it a day” in clashes between kids from rival high schools. Now kids bring guns, as they did to Davis Street on Aug. 7. “Unfortunately with a gun you get to ‘go’ relatively quickly,” said the Chief. Conflicts that used to result in fistfights now lead to kids shooting at each other, and often the shooters are not even old enough to drive.

The escalation to gunplay is not reserved just for the youth. As the shooting of Van Ross demonstrates, adults also pull out pistols when they used to throw punches. But the majority of shooting incidents involve teenagers who have managed to gain possession of handguns. And in many ways it is far easier to pull a trigger than it is to throw a punch.

Gun control would seem on the surface to be a solution or at least part of a solution to the problem of gun violence. Chief Eddington said, “Many of the controls that those Supreme Court [Heller and McDonald] decisions sought to overturn are still in place.” He believes in a model such as that attempted in Boston and Richmond, Virginia, in which increasing sanctions and clarity as to consequences can significantly reduce gun violence. In each recent incident, he notes, the gun used was not legally in the shooter’s possession under Illinois law. Access to guns, most often from outside the Chicago area, is another story, and outside Chief Eddington’s jurisdiction.

The community can and should play an important role in limiting gun violence. In several of the shootings discussed, community members were aware that either a shooter or a victim carried a firearm or engaged in activities likely to result in violent reprisals. Hearing a message that guns and crime lead to violent and tragic consequence from the Chief of Police is one thing, hearing it from community leaders is another.

The community can also intervene before kids ever get guns. The Chief describes himself as “a fanatic about the truancy ordinance” and the Community Accountability Board. It’s the “last best chance” to intercept kids before they get too far down a dangerous path, says the Chief. Once lost, criminal activity is an almost inevitable result. The police, generally speaking are familiar with the persons who engage in most of the antisocial behavior in the City.

Knowing who the bad actors are and proving it are two different things, however. “We live in a constitutional republic, and there’s rules,” said Chief Eddington. “It’s not what I know, but what I can prove.” Even though the Evanston Police Department believes it knows who is responsible for each of the shootings over the past year, arrest warrants have not issued in six of the nine incidents and the shooters continue to walk free. “We can’t suspend the rules just because we’re appalled,” said the Chief.

Increased camera coverage could help. Pointing in particular to the Davis Street shooting, the Chief said that the proposed new camera system could have proved invaluable. “Our best information comes from private security cameras,” he said. A more robust recording would probably confirm which of the various stories told to the police were true. Community involvement, particularly cooperation from the individual caught by the security camera taking a picture, possibly of the shooting, and then running away, could also help solve the Davis Street shooting. Community members could probably help solve other crimes as well.

Uncooperative witnesses and the “code of silence” or “no snitching” rules among certain groups seriously impairs police efforts to solve shootings. Chief Eddington sees two distinct versions of this “code”: that among the criminals and that among the community at large.

Serious drug dealers and gang members often view interaction with the criminal justice system as a cost of doing business. “Criminal justice repercussions in their world are much like how you and I view payroll taxes. It’s overhead,” explained Chief Eddington, even going to jail. For example, the Chief describes Leslie Calvin as “an interesting, interesting guy. If you talk to the cops who did business with Mr. Calvin, [he was] always respectful.” He was never disrespectful to the police, and, “Apparently, this got down to an armed conflict between the Gangster Disciples and the 4 Corner Hustlers. Outside that conflict, Mr. Calvin had people who said very nice things about him who knew him on an interpersonal basis… [making] it extremely difficult to come up with a one size fits all solution.”

A lack of cooperation with the police from the participants in a gang war who would “much rather take care of it themselves” is one thing, and understandable to the Chief. A lack of cooperation from the community at large is another, and harder to accept. Again, the Davis Street shooting, with so many witnesses captured on film and yet so few appearing at or calling police headquarters, is an example.

Criminal cases often rely on lab work, and several of the pending cases await results from the state crime lab. “It’s summertime in Chicago,” said Chief Eddington. “We’re in line.” He expects a resolution for at least two of the pending shootings will arrive with the results of gunshot residue tests from the crime lab. Limited resources, cut by the state budget crisis and yet overburdened by requests from Chicago and beyond, mean that the Chief will not predict when the results will arrive no matter how often he is prodded. They will get here when they get here.

In the meantime, Chief Eddington promises that the department will not take shortcuts. As soon as a warrant issues without a thorough and complete investigation, the erosion of public trust would be devastating, he says. “The Evanston Police Department has always and will continue to play by the rules,” he says.