Sunday night’s multiple shootings within a four-hour span that left nine Austin residents injured, including a 9-year-old girl, has so enraged community leaders that they’re demanding Gov. Pat Quinn to redirect more funds to crime prevention programs.
“The governor of our state is a West Sider, and we expect him not to turn his nose to this,” Rev. Ira Acree, of the LEADER’s Network, said of Quinn, who was actually born in Hillside and attended school in Oak Park.
“We need more funding in Austin for various groups on the frontlines…of stopping and preventing crime,” Acree added.
Rev. Marshall Hatch, also of the LEADER’s Network, agreed: “It is immoral, especially in times of economic distress, to cut vital social programs that help struggling communities such as ours fight this kind of violence.”
Acree’s group and several other community activists hosted a prayer vigil Monday on the corner of Augusta and Leclaire where one of the shootings occurred.
The governor’s office did not return calls to Austin Weekly News by press time. But Acree believes $50 million needs to be reinvested in crime prevention programs, especially on the West Side. The Austin community was under siege by a string of drive-by shootings Sunday night.
According to police and news reports, five males ages 17-23 were shot around 7:20 p.m. after someone in a passing car opened fire in the 100 block of South Lotus. Less than an hour later around 8:15 p.m., two youths – a 9-year-old girl and a 17-year-old male – were both wounded in another drive by shooting in the 1000 block of North Leclaire.
Shortly after 9:20 p.m., a 14-year-old was shot in the foot in the 5400 block of West Kinzie. More than an hour later, a 16-year-old was shot in the shoulder in the 5800 block of West Midway Park around 10:52 p.m. He was listed in serious condition at Mt. Sinai Hospital. No one died in any of the shootings. Area Five detectives are investigating, but no arrests have been made.
The effort by activists Monday evening was to bring peace to the streets, but later that night at 11:18 p.m., another Austin teen, a 17-year-old male, was shot multiple times in a drive by shooting in the 1700 block of North Pulaski. He was taken to John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County in serious condition.
“Enough is enough,” said Virgil Crawford, of the Westside Health Authority, a convening organization for Austin Safety Net Works, a coalition of state-funded community groups looking to reduce violence among youth.
Crawford said he is “sick and tired” of standing in front of TV news cameras responding to violence in Austin. He wants to create a rapid crisis intervention response team, which Austin does not have, to deal with the after-effects associated with violence.
“The hurt is on more than one side,” Crawford said. “Even though those who lost their lives are gone, this community is still traumatized.”
The prayer vigil ended with a march to the home of the youngest victim where the ministers met with the family. Frank Ward, 28, a family spokesperson and cousin of the 9-year-old, thanked the community for its prayers, and urged for an end to the violence.
“I got kids who be out here playing, and it is sad to know that the kids can’t come out,” he said. “You pay mortgage on your property and you can’t live comfortably, and you can’t even let your kids enjoy themselves.”
Acree also noted the toll violence has on children who are mentally distraught and disturbed by gang and gun violence.
Former Austin resident Akello Crawford said his family moved to Maywood “because we couldn’t take it anymore.” A former resident near Menard and Augusta, Crawford insists that the shootings, killings and drug dealing make kids live in fear of coming outside.
“Usually in childhood, you come outside thinking you are going to have a good day. But around here, you can’t hope for that because there is too much gang violence,” he said.
South Side resident Keonte Taylor, 11, said his grades have suffered because of the violence in his community.
“All this shooting and stuff – what’s the point?” he asked. “Why is people doing this? Why is people shooting, stabbing and killing people? People just dying all around.”
The ministers urged the community to come forward with any information regarding the shootings.
“You have a responsibility, even if it is a family member, to turn that information over to the police,” Hatch said. “There should be no hiding place for the shooters.”