With no little concern, we report in this issue that the Evanston Police Department has implemented a targeted stop-and-frisk program. Police Chief Richard Eddington made the announcement last week at the Fifth Ward meeting.
We understand his reasoning. The level of violence in the triangular area bounded by Church Street, the North Shore Channel and Ridge Avenue has taken lives and, in the Chief’s words, “changed the character of the neighborhood.”
These acts of violence are not random, according to the police, but for the most part retaliative. The violence of the last six months includes the following:
On Nov. 29, 2012 Justin Murray was shot and killed in the 1800 block of Brown Avenue.
On Dec. 12, 2012, Javar Bamberg was shot and killed in the alley behind the 1700 block of Grey Avenue.
On Dec. 23, 2012, shots were fired into a residence in the 2000 block of Dodge Avenue. Several shots stuck a mattress on which one child was sleeping.
On April 14, 2013, 20 shots were fired at Emerson Street and Hartrey Avenue. Five vehicles and three residences were struck by bullets.
On May 7, 2013, at about 3:15 p.m., a parent with a child in a stroller was in the area between Fleetwood Jourdain Community Center and the Weissbourd-Holmes Family Focus Building when a man came into the area firing a gun. Police believe the man and possibly two other persons were firing their guns at several people in the back field. They believe that Blake Ross, who was subsequently murdered in Chicago on May 12, was the target of the shooting.
In the daily crime reports of the Evanston Police Department there have been 12 other reports of “man with a gun” or “shots fired” in this area since April 1.
People have moved from the Fifth Ward because they do not want their children hearing gunfire in the night; they do not want their children maimed or killed.
Sadly, we understand this reasoning, too.
Police say their efforts to solve some of these cases have been thwarted by lack of cooperation from the community – the failure of people with knowledge to come forward. Concerned about a continuing cycle of retaliatory violence, the police are implementing stop-and-frisk.
Police Chief Richard Eddington has promised that stop-and-frisk will be conducted according to Constitutional mandates and that the Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards will listen to any complaints.
Under stop-and-frisk, as stated by the U.S. Supreme Court, “The police can stop and briefly detain a person for investigative purposes if the officer has a reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal activity ‘may be afoot,’ even if the officer lacks probable cause.
“The officer, of course, must be able to articulate something more than an ‘inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or hunch’… The Fourth Amendment requires ‘some minimal level of objective justification’ for making the stop. …
“That level of suspicion is considerably less than proof of wrongdoing by a preponderance of the evidence. We have held that probable cause means ‘a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found,’ …and the level of suspicion required for a Terry stop is obviously less demanding than that for probable cause.” U.S. v. Sokulow, 392 U.S. 1, 7.
Stop-and-frisk has reportedly helped reduce crime in New York since it was implemented. But it comes with a heavy price. In the words of Chief Justice Earl Warren in Terry v Ohio, it is not simply a “petty indignity.” Rather, “It is a serious intrusion upon the sanctity of the person, which may inflict great indignity and arouse strong resentment, and it is not to be undertaken lightly.”
That stop-and-frisk can lead to abuses is apparent to those following the Floyd v. City of New York case in New York City, where closing arguments were held on Monday after two months of testimony.
Even if stop-and-frisk is conducted in accordance with the Constitution, it is likely that innocent people will be subject to indignities. The counterbalance is that innocent lives have been put in jeopardy and this is the Police Department’s newest response to the violence.
We regret that things have come to this.
People should not be afraid in their own neighborhood or any neighborhood in Evanston.