Evanston police reach out to quell violence
Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington addresses the audience Thursday night at Evanston's Second Ward meeting. | Bob Seidenberg~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 16, 2012 5:41PM
EVANSTON — Police are using some non-traditional methods in response to a wave of recent shootings, including the employment of young people with street credibility in an effort to convince warring families to stop the violence, the city’s police chief told community members Thursday night.
At a Second Ward meeting held at the District 65 Joseph E. Hill Administration Building, Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington said police have had members of the city’s pastoral team contact family members to “talk to the young men involved in the fighting, and suggest there is another way to do this.”
He divulged that police are tapping members of the city’s youth outreach program, which was revamped at the mayor’s urging this year.
In that effort, he said police are backing the efforts of “young men who have street credibility to go to other young men, primarily of color, and who have been involved in the violence, to say ‘been there, done that, it didn’t’ turn out good for me, it’s not going to turn out good for you.’”
One of the community members at the meeting asked what progress has been made.
“I think the vast majority of the family members are in complete agreement that this has to stop,’’ Eddington said, pausing.
He said there remains “a very small group on both sides” who are unwilling to let their feud go.
“Those are the people our resources are pro-actively focused on,“ Eddington said.
Eddington said he realizes there’s some risk employing people whose background might include prior criminal incidents.
He said officials believe the risk is worth it “in hopes of preventing the events we’ve seen over the past few weeks,” referring to two fatal shootings, and another near fatal in a wave of retaliatory violence.
Meanwhile, police are continuing their investigating into the recent shootings, drawing on resources of the North Regional Crimes Major Crimes Task Force unit, Eddington said. A force of as many as 40 investigators have been working on the violent incidents, following the latest shooting.
Police discovered the body Javar Bamberg , 23, dead from a gunshot to the head at about 2 a.m. Wednesday in an alley behind the 1700 block of Grey Street, a half block north of the Evanston Township High School.
The shooting followed the fatal shooting of Justin Murray, 19, who was gunned down Nov. 29 in front of his grandmother’s house on the 1800 block of Brown Street.
In a related incident, an Evanston man was seriously wounded Dec. 8, in a shooting in front of Sibling’s tavern on the Chicago side of Howard Street.
Eddington said police believe the shootings are the result of an on-going feud between two extended families that date back to 2003 and may have included a 2005 shooting at the Keg of Evanston.
He said not all family members are part of the hostilities. He said the violence is not about gang-turf issues. Rather, some members of the warring families “are committed to and offended by things that have happened, and have taken personal offense.”
“In a community sense these activities are detrimental to all of us, and we need all of you to help fix it,” Eddington said at the meeting, where traditional crime prevention activities such as block clubs were stressed.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, who also attended, spoke of efforts to get jobs for youth in the 18- to 25-year-old age group.
She has asked Northwestern University to employ some of the youths in the university’s $100 million plus building program on campus.
She is also pursuing the possibility of having Oakton Community College come to Evanston and teach nighttime certificate courses at the high school.
One problem is not enough students are taking advantage of the vocational training programs the high school has, the mayor said.
One woman asked Eddington about stationing police officers on the corners where trouble is occurring.
Eddington said the cost would be prohibitive. He also questioned whether community members would want “police on every corner micromanaging events. It’s just not the American way,” he said.