Members of the West Side Black Elected Officials spent part of Father's Day on a scorching Sunday afternoon attempting to create some awareness about the area's violence, particularly the recent spate of abductions that have touched off a wave of hysteria on social media.
During the June 17 press conference, held outside of the Garfield Park Fieldhouse, 100 Central Park, at least a dozen West Side politicians at the local, state and federal level endured united around a common message that was printed on flyers that the officials held out for TV news cameras: "Be careful. Be alert. Beware. And in all things, love peace."
"I have a 2-year-old daughter and a week ago, there were gunshots on the corner of my house," said state Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin (10th), the wife of 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin, who tended to heir toddler just feet away.
"I'm not just speaking for myself," Conyears-Ervin said. "This is what parents endure day after day. We are tired! We need help, but we need the ones who are causing this havoc in our community to stop! This criminal activity has to stop!"
Before the press conference, staffers handed out a packet of crime statistics provided by the Chicago Police Department.
In the last three months, according to CPD's Clear Map Crime Summary, there have been 456 reports of violent crime in Austin, 262 in North Lawndale and 167 in West Garfield Park. In that same time period, Austin, North Lawndale and West Garfield Park have led the city in homicides, with 16, six and six, respectively.
In recent weeks, many people have taken to social media to amplify their concerns about a series of missing persons cases on the West Side.
According to a Fox 6 report, at least six teenage girls and women have been reported missing on the West Side since March. Two of those missing persons were found dead while four have been found safe, the station reported.
The cases have prompted many people to spread theories on social media that include the possibility of a serial kidnapper on the loose.
During a June 14 press conference, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson dismissed the Facebook and Twitter speculation, saying "there is no credible information that we have a serial kidnapper going around in the black community, pillaging. That's just not true."
"Somehow the community has linked all six and there's just no evidence of that," the superintendent added. "Then the community calls us with bogus tips. They think they're helping. Those 1,000 tips are unrelated. We have to chase all those down."
According to Fox 6, Johnson said that the two deceased women were last seen by witnesses with the same person, and that all three in the group had been involved "in narcotics sales, prostitution and using narcotics together."
The cases of the four surviving young women, whose ages ranged between 15 and 18, were not related to the cases involving Shantieya Smith, a 26-year-old whose body was discovered in a West Side garage after she went missing in May, and Sadaria Davis, 15, whose body was found in an abandoned building in May after she was reported missing in April.
As of Sunday, neither of the cases had been ruled homicides and were still under investigation. Police have a man with connections to both women in custody on unrelated charges.
Still, those gathered during the Father's Day press conference in West Garfield Park decried all forms of violence.
"I am a father of three, my young people are at home right now [and] it is very hard to have my children go outside, play in the playground and enjoy life," said Ald. Michael Scott (24th).
"Today is Father's Day, so we're asking all the men to become part of this village," he said. "If men took the time to stand up and do what they need to do in this community, all of this havoc [would not exist to the degree that it does]."
"We don't want to see our girls murdered," said Congressman Danny K. Davis (7th). "Don't go to some guy's car, because he looks like he's driving a good-looking machine and he's leaning and leaning and you want to get in there, you don't know him."
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