Police Chief Richard Eddington at a Second Ward meeting on Nov. 12. RoundTable photo

On Oct. 31, a 31-year-old woman was found dead outside a house on Dodge Avenue north of Church Street, which one alderman said was known to many high school students as a drug house. There was no sign of foul play or sexual abuse, said Police Chief Richard Eddington at a Second Ward meeting on Nov. 12. Although the toxicology screen will not be available for a few more weeks, he said, it appears that she died of an overdose of illegal drugs. 

On Nov. 11, members of two Evanston gangs whose members, police say, live in Evanston and have known each other for years took their violence to the streets near the high school. Shots were fired and two members of one gang, including the shooter, ran to a two-flat building at 1802 Lake St. That building had been known to police for several weeks as a problem property, said Chief Eddington.

Officers from the department Neighborhood Enforcement Team (NET) were already patrolling the area on Nov. 10 when they heard the shots “because of a shooting on Nov. 6 related to that address,” said Chief Eddington. Even before then, neighbors had called in complaints about “loud noise, young men coming and going at all hours, partying and taunting – things that degrade the quality of life in the neighborhood,” he said.

Police said witnesses to the Nov. 11 shooting told them the persons who ran inside the residence had been shooting at another group farther north on Darrow Avenue. The responding officers found no victims, and the Chief said no one had been injured as far as the police know.

Police cordoned off the house and negotiated to get the people out of the house, according to information from the police. There were no hostages taken, said Chief Eddington. The first-floor tenants “had nothing to do with the incident, but the second-floor tenants are friends of the guys who ran into the house.”

One juvenile, age 16, and one adult, age 19, were taken into custody; both tested positive for gunshot residue, said Chief Eddington.

Police also recovered a loaded .380 caliber handgun from inside the residence.

“The NET teams know these kids and know their parents. The gang members will talk to police and tell what happened. In this case, both sides agree on what happened – they just won’t tell who did it,” said Chief Eddington.

The juvenile, who lives in Evanston but does not attend Evanston Township High School, confessed to the shooting and was sent to the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, Chief Eddington said.

On Nov. 13, the juvenile charged with Aggravated Discharge of a Firearm, a Class 1 Felony; Possession of a Firearm by a Street Gang Member, a Class 2 Felony; Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, a Class 4 Felony; Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon, a  Class 4 Felony; and Reckless Conduct, a Class 4 Felony.

The 19-year-old, a resident of Skokie,  was charged with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, a Class A Misdemeanor; and Disorderly Conduct, a violation of a City Ordinance.   

Cyber Insults, Shots Fired

The incident was part of an ongoing conflict between two gangs on the west side of Evanston – D Block and ABM (All ’Bout Money), said Chief Eddington. “This schism is over a whole bunch of stuff and it comes to be fueled by social media. The web has degraded what we call traditional geographic boundaries. And once something is on the web, it’s out there forever. … I would characterize this incident as a gang conflict with uniquely personal overtones. This is a free-for-all and a lot of the violence is based on personal [feelings]. Young men who are in conflict and who have not learned other ways of dealing with it.”

Because of the use of illegal guns, Chief Eddington calls these groups “gangs” rather than cliques. He added there are about 40 young men in each group – and about 100 known gang members in Evanston. He added, though, that it is difficult to say that someone is a gang member – some of the members of the cliques “just smoke weed. A gang would be a subset of these. Not all clique members use guns but clique members who use guns are termed ‘gang members’.”

Police and City Strategies

Chief Eddington said the City and the Police Department have both long-term and short-term strategies, working more often in parallel than in tandem, the police implement the short-term strategies, and the City, the long-term.

Since Sept. 5, the NET team has worked every day to focus on reducing violence through strategic deployment, targeted stop-and-frisks and getting guns off the street, he said. The police use a heat map – a map showing crime hot-spots – to deploy personnel each day; 13 illegal guns have been recovered so far. The stop-and-frisks are targeted to known gang members, he said.

Long-term strategies come through the City’s youth and young adult programs, overseen by Youth and Young Adult Program Manager Kevin Brown. Street outreach workers talk with disengaged youth, offering job-readiness training, education opportunities and sometimes even employment opportunities. 

“It is all these efforts condensed in a constant push” that the City and the police hope will help eradicate the violence and anti-social behavior, particularly manifested by disengaged youth.

Yet, cautioned Chief Eddington, “With all these efforts, there is still going to be violence, especially when you have people 16 and 18 years old with guns. We’re going to have to deal with this as best we can. I think the strategies are viable. We’ve got to stay the course and also understand that there are going to be some people who will commit violence.

Problem Landlords, Problem Tenants

Chief Eddington said the shooting on Nov. 10 gave him, the City Manager and the Mayor “the ability to talk with the Housing Authority of Cook County about who holds the vouchers in an attempt to move the people out. … These two guys know where they were going. It’s a two-flat. The people in the upstairs flat are involved. The people living downstairs don’t have anything to do with this.”

A member of the audience who identified himself as a landlord said he gets letters from the City if his garage or lawn needs work. “It’s ridiculous that when someone is around with guns that you can’t take action against the landlord,” he said.

Another person in the audience suggested that the City rewrite its landlord/tenant ordinance.

Alderman Donald Wilson, 4th Ward, who attended the Second Ward meeting, said, it is hard to evict a tenant. “It’s hard to deny somebody a place to live.” He also said the City is looking at the ordinance with the question in mind, “What other tools can we add to our toolbox to help landlords with problem tenants?”

Ald. Wilson added, “Bad landlords and bad tenants get good at working the system.”