At a meeting at James Shields Middle School Tuesday morning, police promised more patrols around schools at all times, but an even bigger presence during arrival and dismissal times after three people were shot and killed near schools in recent weeks.
Two people were killed and two others wounded in a shooting during school hours across the street from Shields Elementary on Friday, Dec. 19. Then, last Thursday, another man was killed and four others were wounded in a shooting a few blocks away. Parents in this neighborhood police to crack down on the gangs running rampant in Brighton Park.
"The violence here is my main concern for his safety," parent Maggie Castillo said.
Castillo's eldest son is 13 years old and an AP student at Shields Middle School. She said he's been approached by gangs while walking to and from school twice in the last few months.
"He answers their questions. He tells them 'I'm not a gangbanger. I'm coming from school, I don't want any problems.' And walks away," Castillo said.
"I feel like it's just getting worse day by day. And I don't know what's going to happen, but I know we need some kind of resources to help our children and our families in this community," parent Maria Ordonez said.
Ordonez has four sons. She says they have to sit out activities after school due to the violence.
"There's been a couple where they've been using automated weapons, machine guns. I think the last one was just last week, and it's sort of back and forth retaliation between gangs," Marcos Ceniceros said.
They and other concerned parents asked Alderman Raymond Lopez (15th Ward) for help and for Chicago police to step up patrols at an open forum Tuesday morning.
Commander Stephen Chung (9th District) said that special attention includes officers patrolling schools during arrival and dismissal and even when after school programs let out.
"We will adjust the resources. We've been providing special attention for all schools in the area," Cmdr. Chung said.
"There's very much a palatable fear emanating throughout the neighborhood. The fear that our families could be shot, that our children could be the next victim," Ald. Lopez said.
At the meeting, Alderman Lopez was given dozens of letter from 6th graders concerned about their safety and safety of their families. Ald. Lopez wants the city to use some the city's property tax rebate money for immediate solutions like winter jobs, violence intervention and mentoring that extends to 5th and 6th graders.
"To catch the children young, to show them that we are engaged in their life. These letters here that I received today were from 6th graders who are very much aware of the gangs and the gun violence in the neighborhoods," Ald. Lopez said.
Some parents discussed transferring their students to other schools. Ald. Lopez said he will be talking to other aldermen at City Council Wednesday morning about possible solutions to make the community safer to families.