Sauganash gunshot incidents appear related to an internal gang conflict; officials address concerns at meeting held by Alderman Nugent
by BRIAN NADIG
Recent gunshot incidents in and near the Sauganash community appear to be related to an internal gang conflict over narcotics, and the offenders are believed to live in the area, according to Chicago police.
“Usually they did their business elsewhere, but it now seems to be following them home,” 17th (Albany Park) Police District commander Ron Pontecore said at a March 23 virtual community meeting hosted by Alderman Samantha Nugent (39th). “No neighborhood is free (of gang members).”
Earlier this month there were reports of shots fired in the 5900 block fo North Cicero Avenue and near the intersection of Kilbourn and Sauganash avenues. Police found shell casings in both areas.
There also was an incident on the nearby NEIU campus in which a man inside a car shot at another vehicle, and this week a man was shot in the back behind the Albany Park Library in the 3400 block of West Foster Avenue in what police have described as a possible “setup.”
Additional police resources, including gang officers from the Cook County Sheriff’s office, have been assigned to the area in recent weeks due to what Nugent has called a “surge in violence.”
“It’s been a little quieter, except for yesterday (the Foster shooting),” Pontecore said.
Area Five Deputy Chief Roberto Nieves said that the shutdown of criminal trials in Cook County due to the pandemic may be contributing to the violence.
“If there’s no consequences, then they’re willing to take a chance,” Nieves said. “That level of deterrence is taken away.”
Nieves said that 17th and neighboring 16th (Jefferson Park) district officers are arresting gang members for firearm violations but that police do not control what happens later. “We are doing our job, but a lot more needs to be done,” he said.
As trials start to resume this spring, it is important to have court advocates at the hearings in order to demonstrate a community’s level of concern, Pontecore said. “It sends a strong message to the judge,” he said, adding that residents can learn about the advocacy program by contacting their district’s community policing office.
Pontecore also encouraged residents to attend beat meetings. He said that these meetings allow residents to meet the officers patrolling their neighborhoods and to discus crime-related problems.
A resident expressed concern at the meeting that the recent increase in police presence in the area could lead to people of color being unfairly targeted by officers.
“We do not target individuals for what they wear … how they look,” Nieves said. “We target criminal behavior.”
Nugent said that she will continue to advocate for more public safety resources for the ward and that she will oppose any attempts to assign local officers to summer patrol units in other parts of the city. “I’m going to work very hard to say ‘no,’” she said.
Nieves said that there should not be a need to take away local officers unless there is the “emergency” type of civil unrest that the city experienced last summer.
Some districts reportedly have been notified about assigning officers to a summer mobile unit.
Also at the meeting, officials urged residents to report crimes and suspicious activity to police instead of just posting the information on social media.
“People post a ton of information there, but they don’t call 911,” Pontecore said. The posted information may not always be accurate, but “people just start running with it,” he said.
Nieves said that the Chicago Police Department is working on a new resource allocation plan and that a key factor in the decision-making will be the level of calls for service to a community.