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Ninth Ward residents attended a meeting at Chute Middle School this week to seek clarification about a shooting that left a neighbor with, as one resident said, with the trauma as well as the physical wound of having been shot.
Alderman Cicely Fleming, who called the Nov 25 meeting, invited members of the Evanston Police Department and the City’s Youth and Young Adult Programs Division to help residents understand how this incident is being addressed and what the City is doing to try to draw juveniles away from antisocial activities.
A woman walking her dog at about 9 p.m. on Nov. 21 in the vicinity of Madison Street and Sherman Avenue saw gunfire coming from a car near the intersection. One of the bullets struck her in the leg, but police say they do not believe she was the target of the shooting.
Responding to several calls of “shots fired” in the area, one police officer saw two subjects approach a car, which then sped away, Detective Adam Pack told the audience of about 50 people.
“Officers found a juvenile at 705 Madison St. and found a firearm on the juvenile. The second suspect was not found, but a firearm was recovered.
“The person in the vehicle said two subjects had approached her car. They wanted her to roll down the window – and she sped away. We believe that the action of that person and the officers in the area deterred another possible incident,” said Det. Pack.
Police officers recovered shell casings in the area and arrested the juvenile, a 17-year-old male from Des Plaines.
Without divulging information that would compromise the investigation, police officers fielded questions from the audience.
The arrested juvenile was known to have a gang affiliation, police said, but was not a known gang member. The area is not an area known for drug activity, but often drug deals take place in dark, quiet neighborhoods.
“It’s dark there,” said Evanston Police Detective Tosha Wilson. “Evanston’s dark – I know, I grew up here – but there aren’t a lot of places as dark as that one.”
“The randomness of drug dealing – it’s not something new, she said – but it’s been brought to our attention in the last two weeks, and I am proud of my team.”
Police for several months surveilled the area from Chicago Avenue west to Ridge Avenue and from South Boulevard to Main Street and were not able to substantiate a pattern of drug-dealing there, said Sergeant James Pillars.
There were 35 calls pertaining to activities that had the potential to escalate: 35 for disorderly conduct, five for disturbing the peace, four for shots fired (no victims and no property damage were found), four suspicious circumstances and six suspicious persons, he added.
The sergeant also said the area, which is near the South Boulevard CTA stop, has a lot of vehicular traffic; some residents said they have seen unfamiliar vehicles parked or idling in the area.
Residents also asked under what circumstances they should call police.
“We often see drug deals happen, but we don’t know when to call the police. It doesn’t feel good to call the police if we see people sitting in their cars,” one resident said.
“If you’re ever in doubt, call 911,” Det. Wilson said. She said if there is no immediate emergency, people can call the non-emergency police number, 847-866-5000 or call 311.
“Don’t email me,” said Ald. Fleming. “I don’t have a secretary, and my office is in my back pocket. I’m not going to have immediate access to the police.”
Asked about gang activity in Evanston, Det. Wilson said, “There is decreased gang activity from what I’m used to. Your area is pretty quiet compared to the ward south of you.”
“There is not an increase,” Officer Pack said, “but we do get a lot of spillover from Chicago. But I would not say there’s an uptick.”
In response to a question about the motive for the shooting, Deputy Chief Aretha Barnes said, “A lot of that is under investigation. We don’t think the victim was the intended target.”
Nathan Norman and Jermy McCray of the City’s Youth and Young Adult Programs, said the outreach staff work to entice young adults from life on the street. The Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, a Career Pathways program with the Youth Job Center and help in obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation – which lifts statutory bars from certain types of employment – all help lead young adults back into the mainstream of education and job preparation.