Gun violence, gang activity on the rise in Kane, Kendall region

By Erika Wurst For Chronicle Media

In the first six months of 2017, Aurora police report 67 shootings, compared to 47 shootings over the same period the previous year. But police also cite say more guns have also been taken off of the streets this year.

As the second half of 2017 gets underway, local law enforcement officials are trying their best to combat an increase in shootings occurring throughout Kane and Kendall counties.

Recently released statistics show that shootings throughout the city of Aurora have risen 42.6 percent compared to the first six months of 2016.

In the first six months of 2017, there were 67 shootings, compared to 47 shootings over the same period the previous year.

“The jump in shootings and illegally possessed gun activity, which is also being seen in many of the larger towns across the state, is due mostly to an increase in gang crimes and those being perpetuated over social media,” Aurora Police Department spokesman Dan Ferrelli said. “The vast majority of shootings are not random and in many instances, even the shooting victims do no cooperate in the investigations.”

The violence appears to be spreading to collar counties, where smaller police forces are dealing with the spill-over.

Kendall County Sheriff Dwight Baird said he’s noticed the up-tick in gun violence as of late, and is working hard to combat the trend.

“Not even one shooting is acceptable, but it’s something that occurs,” Baird said. “We are applying our resources to combat it. We recognize things are going to happen and we need to be prepared.”

Baird said the department has been focused on the Boulder Hill subdivision, where extra patrols have been added and where deputies remain vigilant in light of recent shootings that have occurred.

Like in Aurora, Baird said the increase is due in part to gang activity.

“There’s feuding going on and we’re aware of that because of the intelligence we receive,” Baird said. “These shootings are not random acts.”

Kendall County Sheriff Dwight Baird

Kane County Sheriff Department Lt. Patrick Gengler said Kane County is experiencing a similar rise in shooting-related crimes.

Gengler said today’s criminals are “smarter than they used to be. ”

“They know where the resources are,” Gengler said, and more often than not, those resources aren’t in unincorporated areas.

“These bangers know how many of our deputies are patrolling Aurora township,” Gengler acknowledged.

Because of this, the departments have been working together to rectify what’s been going on.

“While we’re not everywhere at once, we do partner with other state and local resources to work our efforts together collectively,” Baird said. “We’re coordinating our efforts with other affected communities and sharing info to identify key players and feuds going on.”

Kendall County’s gang task force, known as the Kendall County Cooperative Police Assistance Team created in 2015, is a partnership between the Kendall County Sheriff’s Department, the Illinois State Police, Oswego Police and Yorkville Police.

“The criminal intelligence team has been a very vital resource throughout the investigation into our shootings,” Baird said.

The efforts appear to be paying off.

In Boulder Hill, increased patrols, targeted enforcement and the use of unmarked patrol vehicle has already yielded positive results.

On June 30, deputies seized two illegal weapons from two different men during vehicle stops in Boulder Hill.

“There are now two less guns on the street that pose a threat to the citizens we serve,” Baird said.

And while shootings are certainly up in Aurora, so are the number of weapons officers have successfully taken off the street.

Ferrelli said arrests for illegally-owned or possessed guns are also way up, by 47.9 percent.

During the first six months of 2016, 48 people were charged with unlawful use of a weapon. The first six months of 2017 yielded 71 arrests and 118 firearms being taken off the streets.

“All divisions of the Aurora Police Department continue to gather intelligence and monitor activities of those criminals known to be responsible for gang violence and the locations at which they are known to frequent,” Ferrelli said. “We also continue to work with our law enforcement partners at the county state and federal levels.”

That said, Ferrelli highlighted the importance of residents doing their part to thwart crime.

“We also depend on the citizens we serve to call 911 when they observe any suspicious activities in their neighborhoods,” he said.

Baird gave similar advice to his residents, and said many are taking heed.

“We are getting more calls from residents,” he said. He also noted that following recent shootings in Boulder Hill, neighborhood watch meetings are starting to fill up with concerned members.

“To me, that was inspiring,” he said of a recent meeting that attracted upwards of 50 people compared to the less than half a dozen that usually make it out.

“There’s a good deal of interaction and communication happening between residents and deputies, and we are happy and grateful for that exchange of information.”





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