6 dead, at least 36 injured in city's most violent weekend in 2013
by MITCH DUDEK
The most violent weekend in Chicago this year left at least 36 people injured and six others dead from gunfire.
Those killed ranged in age from 16 to 40.
“I had a family from my parish tell me recently that their 10-year-old son didn't want to come back to Chicago from vacation because of the violence,” said Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church in Englewood, which is about a mile from the site of one of the shootings.
Friends and family gathered Sunday outside the Humboldt Park home of Kevin Rivera to sign a poster and light candles to remember the 16-year-old. He was killed late Saturday when a gunman on a bicycle shot Rivera as he walked in an alley not far from his home on the 1500 block of North Keystone. He collapsed down the block from where he was shot about 11:45 p.m.
Earlier Saturday, about 10:50 p.m., Ricardo Herrera, 21, was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting in the Little Village neighborhood when a gunman opened fire in the 2500 block of South Ridgeway Avenue. Herrera, of the 2400 block of South Marshall Boulevard, was dead at the scene.
A few minutes after midnight Sunday, 40-year-old Todd Wood, of the 8100 block of South St. Lawrence Avenue, was killed and three others were wounded when a gunman walked up to the open door of the club in the 900 block of East 79th Street in the Chatham neighborhood and opened fire. The men had argued outside the club before the attack.
About an hour later, Jamal Jones, 19, was discovered on a sidewalk in the 7400 block of South Parnell Avenue with gunshot wounds to the shoulder and chest, police said. Jones, of the 8800 block of South Yale Avenue, died about an hour later at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
Cortez Wilberton, 31, of the 200 block of South Lavergne Avenue, was fatally shot about 1:30 a.m. Sunday. The shooting happened in the 200 block of South Keeler Avenue in the West Garfield Park neighborhood. A woman was also grazed in the cheek.
The first homicide of the weekend happened about 11 p.m. Friday in the 5500 block of West Quincy Street in the Austin neighborhood when McGregory Porter, 24, was fatally shot in the eye and another man was shot in the abdomen during an altercation, authorities said.
Rookie cops walking South Side streets
Initiative puts new officers on night patrols in some of city's most dangerous blocks
by Jeremy Gorner
Flashlights in hand, the five rookie Chicago cops were walking along a darkened stretch of the gang-infested South Side neighborhood on a recent night when their radios crackled with a call of a battery in progress.
One behind the other, the five jogged the next block over, joining up with four other young officers already huddled around a man who said the two mothers of his children had just duked it out.
"Can you pull someone over if you're walking?" asked the man, surprised to see all the officers had arrived on foot.
"We're still the police, right?" one officer replied. "Absolutely, we can pull someone over. If they don't stop, we'll call (for a squad car)."
Fresh from the police academy and three months of street training, up to 16 rookie cops a night patrol some of the city's most dangerous blocks on foot as part of a new initiative that is a throwback to the department's days of old.
Superintendent Garry McCarthy calls it a return to community policing, but it also is designed to beef up the police presence in tough neighborhoods and give the new cops a taste of life on the street.
The effort started off modestly less than two months ago with only a couple of dozen officers, but McCarthy has hopes of significantly increasing the numbers by adding newly minted cops to the foot patrols as they complete the academy and field training.
Department officials wouldn't allow a Tribune reporter to shadow the rookie cops, citing safety issues. But after learning where the foot patrols operate, the newspaper spent several nights observing the officers at work at 79th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue as they walked a 16-square-block area that took them into the East Chatham, Chatham and Grand Crossing neighborhoods. The foot patrols also operate in the area around 63rd Street and King Drive in the Woodlawn community.
The officers walk in pairs or sometimes in packs of four or more, chatting up passersby and employees in liquor stores, barber shops and other businesses. Working nine-hour shifts from evening into early morning, they write parking tickets, check for squatters in vacant buildings and occasionally pop out of dark gangways or dimly lit side streets. The foot officers also write up a lot of "contact cards" to keep a record of the names, addresses and phone numbers of those they routinely stop.
Arthur Lurigio, a criminologist at Loyola University Chicago, believes that cops walking the beat make citizens feel safer — and lead to improved cooperation from residents.
"By changing the perceptions of residents about safety in the neighborhood, they become more willing to cooperate with the police in solving crimes, leading to lower crime rates," he said.
The Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, has voiced concerns about the safety of the rookie cops on foot patrol in some of the most violent neighborhoods. Yet those are the same areas where an influx of veteran officers working overtime on their days off have been added — in squad cars and usually just a few blocks away.
Lurigio said there's no research to suggest that foot patrols are any more dangerous than working in squad cars.
The reaction of residents to the patrols has been mixed. Some feel safer, others have already grown weary of their presence, particularly those who feel hassled by the officers' actions.
Several said they often see the foot officers ordering people up against walls to search for narcotics or weapons. At least one individual was seen using his cellphone to record a video of his confrontation with officers.
Andre Perkins, 43, who runs a weekly outdoor cookout for the poor along 79th Street, complained that the area was already heavily patrolled by police and that the arrival of the foot officers has brought only more problems for even law-abiding residents.
"How can we feel safe in our community when people are telling us to get off the corner?" he said. "They're just a modern form of martial law."
Aaron Givens, 34, a barber at Image 79 Salon on Cottage Grove near 79th, believes those opposed to the foot patrols just don't like the police. He welcomed the added patrols given the number of shootings and robberies in the area.
"I really feel their presence," he said while cutting a customer's hair. "It's been a lot safer. You can really tell the difference. ... You don't know when the police are coming around alleys and corners on foot."
Ron Albert, 59, who manages Lil's Something Kool Kocktail Lounge, a retro 1970s-style bar on Cottage Grove, said the nightly visits by officers give his largely female clientele comfort as they walk to and from their cars.
"When you're out there (on foot), you hear things, you smell things," he said. "You see things you'd never see (in a squad car)."
Social media give Virginia Tech police a host of new eyes
The department is finding Facebook and Twitter help them catch offenders as well as connect with the community
by Tonia Moxley
BLACKSBURG — Technology is leading to a new era of community policing at Virginia Tech.
Over the past two years, Tech police say using social media to post selected footage from new security cameras installed in public areas around campus has led directly to the solving of about a half-dozen cases.
While some have been small thefts or acts of vandalism, Tech Police Maj. Kevin Foust said others have been serious. At least one such posting has led to a felony charge.
More than that, the social media initiative is involving students, faculty and staff in keeping their own campus safe, and opening up new avenues for interaction with police.
“This is how our community wants us to communicate,” Foust said.
The trend began about two years ago as the department ramped up its Facebook presence, a move that boosted its “friends,” or subscribers' list from about 2,500 to about 9,500 today, Tech police Lt. George Jackson said.
Jackson, who is in charge of the department's social media presence and posts to the official accounts, has also put the department on Twitter, where about 3,000 people follow the police department's 140-character updates.
At about the same time as Jackson was revitalizing the Facebook page, the university signed a nearly $1 million contract with Northern Virginia-based X7 Systems Integration to install a networked video security system in most public areas around campus — a project requested by Tech police to boost safety in the wake of the April 16, 2007, campus shootings.
The cameras are high resolution, and allow good images of vehicles and faces from long distances and, under some conditions, even at night. So far, Foust said, about 82 cameras have been installed on campus, and police hope within the next year or so the total will grow to 170.
The cameras can be monitored by the police department's dispatch center. The digital footage is archived at the department, and its collection, storage and use is governed by a university-wide policy written to protect privacy. Locations for the cameras have been vetted by the university's legal team, and are restricted to areas where people have no reasonable expectation of privacy, Foust said.
Tech is not the only agency using social media to connect to the people they protect. Radford University and Radford city police and the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department also maintain Facebook pages.
In fact, according to results of a 2012 International Association of Chiefs of Police survey, social media sites are becoming a common police tool.
Out of 600 law enforcement agencies in 48 states surveyed, 92 percent reported using social media in some fashion in their daily operations. The most commonly reported uses were for criminal investigations (77 percent), notifying the public of crime problems (64 percent) and community outreach (62 percent). About 8 percent of the agencies surveyed responded that they did not use social media.
The vast majority of agencies surveyed were municipal police departments. About 7 percent of survey respondents were campus law enforcement, according to the report.
Facebook and Twitter were the two most commonly used social media platforms. The report stated that 84 percent of agencies surveyed use Facebook, while 32 percent use Twitter.
Using the new security cameras in conjunction with social media to request help in solving cases has been particularly effective, Foust said. Not only is the campus community responding to the initiatives, but sometimes even suspects are helping the effort.
At about 12:45 p.m. on Oct. 26, Blacksburg police received a call about an attempted strong-arm robbery on Prices Fork Road near the Tech campus. The suspect fled, but soon after security cameras at Tech's Perry Street parking garage caught a second robbery attempt on film.
From the footage, police harvested an image of the suspect and a vehicle. Jackson said he posted the suspect's picture to the department's Facebook page, and asked the campus community for help in identifying the person involved.
A few hours later a man turned himself in, and Foust said the Facebook posting was “a major contributing factor” in his surrender.
Blacksburg police charged Evan Lee Stump, 26, of Radford with attempted robbery. Stump is scheduled to enter a plea in the case next month in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
There have been other cases in which witnesses or persons of interest have either turned themselves in after their photos were posted, or friends or roommates have contacted police to identify them, Foust said.
That's one example of Tech police sharing the advantages of their new system, and there are likely to be more. Tech has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Blacksburg Police Department that will allow that agency access to video feeds from campus cameras that also cover areas of the town, such as College Avenue, Town Attorney Larry Spencer said.
While campus police tout the effectiveness of the crime-fighting aspects of social media and video security cameras, the effort is about more than that — it's about building a stronger relationship with the people they protect.
More often than photos of persons of interest, Jackson posts safety tips, information about charity fundraisers, game day traffic updates and even the occasional joke.
“The Hokie nation ... they are very supportive of us as a police department,” Jackson said. “How else could a department the size of ours connect with such a large community?”