Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Gov. JB Pritzker are pictured at a pair of news conferences from Chicago Monday morning. Pritzker addressed expressway shootings and Raoul addressed organized retail crime. | Photo by Illinois.gov

SPRINGFIELD – More than 20 arrests have been made in recent months related to expressway shootings in Chicago. And 99 cameras which include license plate readers have been installed along the Dan Ryan Expressway, the roadway with the greatest level of violence. The Eisenhower has also seen a rising number of such shootings. Hundreds more cameras are promised across the expressway system.

 Gov. J.B. Pritzker appeared Feb. 7 with Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly in Chicago to outline actions taken and arrests made in expressway shootings.

Pritzker and Kelly said more than 20 arrests have been recorded. The arrests included three first-degree murder charges, one involuntary manslaughter, three attempted murders, and other crimes such as aggravated discharge of a firearm, reckless discharge of a firearm, aggravated vehicular hijacking and aggravated fleeing and eluding.

While they were in the news conference, however, a shooting occurred on the Dan Ryan expressway, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Kelly said expressway shootings have increased because of the prevalence of cameras – from doorbell cameras to store security systems – almost everywhere else, other than expressways. Putting cameras there can help deter the shootings, he said.

“It’s almost like a modern, 21st century form of dueling,” Kelly said. “They say horrible things to each other on social media, they threaten one another and they say let’s take that out to the E-way. So let’s take this out to the expressway. And almost like Main Street in the Old West, they’re using these expressways for this type of violence.”

Pritzker and Kelly pointed to the installation of 99 cameras with license plate readers on the Dan Ryan expressway in Chicago, where many of the shootings have occurred, with “hundreds more” cameras coming.

In recent weeks, the state police have worked with the Chicago Police Department, federal Homeland Security and local law enforcement agencies, Pritzker said, leading to the 20 arrests.

Kelly said the agency increased patrol presence on Chicago expressways by over 150 percent at “peak criminal activity times.” Since October, that has led to nearly 5,000 traffic stops, 132 DUI arrests, 69 firearm recoveries and 133 criminal arrests in the Chicago area. 

The Monday news conference touting the Pritzker administration’s approach came as he and Democrats in the General Assembly have faced consistent attacks from Republican lawmakers and political opponents amid the recent rise in violent crime.

Republicans have painted a criminal justice reform bill passed one year ago in January as a contributing factor to rising crime rates. That bill, known as the SAFE-T Act, overhauls police certification, reforms use-of-force standards, improves police accountability and abolishes cash bail beginning in 2023 in favor of a system that prioritizes risk of re-offending over an offender’s ability to afford release.

The GOP has introduced a package of bills looking to create mandatory minimums for certain violent crime offenses and to create a special, $125 million grant fund to beef up officer hiring and retainment efforts.

In recent budgets, Pritzker said his administration has increased funding for state police officers to retrieve illegally owned guns and to hire new cadets, including 300 in the upcoming fiscal year.

He also touted violence interruption spending, which he’s more than doubled in his tenure, an increase made possible due to hundreds of millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 response funding.

“Stopping the cycle of violence also means tackling poverty and root causes of crime, access to housing, health care, education and jobs,” Pritzker said Monday.

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