CHICAGO - A spike in cemetery shootings and violence during funeral processions, exposed by the ABC7 I-Team, resulted Thursday in formation of a Cook County task force to fight the growing problems.
WATCH I-TEAM REPORT: Suburban police, professionals struggling with growing funeral violence
Suburban police, professionals struggle with growing funeral violence
The new task force of law enforcement, government officials and community leaders comes a little more than two weeks after the I-Team revealed armed mourners in funeral corteges from Chicago churches to suburban cemeteries.
Sometimes, as the dearly departed are being set in their final resting place, tempers flare and bullets fly. Investigators say the increased outbreak of violence during funerals often begins during the wake and continues along the motorcade, frequently punctuated by pandemonium, havoc and gunfire.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and County Commissioner Richard Boykin joined with funeral directors and community leaders on Thursday to describe the extent of the problem and how their task force will attack it.
"From all the different players we are involved with-they all say they have never seen increases like this and the frequencies of it" said Sheriff Dart during the announcement. The sheriff promised fast formation of a task force to hear community concerns and come up with solutions. The task force plans to convene three public meetings: in south suburban Cook County, the western suburbs and in downtown Chicago.
Anarchy en route to gravesites is a concern across the metro area.
"We've seen it happen in too many of our communities" said Commissioner Boykin. "These funeral processions have gone thru our communities where people have been hanging out of cars there have been shots fired."
Boykin lauded our February 13th TV broadcast that displayed graphic videos of funeral lawlessness and described the "threat to mourners and anyone in the way."
"I want to commend the I-Team and Channel 7 for their investigative report that they did on this issue" said Boykin.
As the I-Team reported, most funerals and burials are reverent and safe, but it is when the emotionally charged events result in violence that authorities need to step in.
Police believe the dangerous activity is usually sparked by gang retaliation-especially when the funeral service is for a gang member.
"This is an issue that has been going on for quite some time now so it is not new-it is long overdue-to have a more thoughtful approach to it" said Dart. "Where there have been just approaches of putting in an extra car here or an extra car there having the funerals proceed in certain routes --there has to be a better plan."
The plan that some funeral directors have is more personal: they have started packing heat, the I-Team learned. Those funeral directors are obtaining concealed weapons permits to protect themselves during the frenzy.