CHICAGO (WLS) -- Community activists are asking new mayor Lori Lightfoot to investigate whether a serial killer has been targeting African American women on the city's South and West sides for the past two decades.
The group leading the effort claims there could be a connection between more than 50 unsolved murders in the city. The families of some of the victims are still hoping Chicago police will take a closer look at their cases.
Shantieya Smith's mother said she still believes her daughter was the victim of a serial killer.
"I can say that a lot of people coming around that's missing," Latonya Moore said.
Smiths' murder remains unsolved. The 26-year-old was reported missing from the Lawndale neighborhood and was found dead in a garage in June of 2018.
She's one of dozens of unsolved murders that some claims are the work of a predator targeting African American women and teens in Chicago.
"We have a serial killer in our community," said Rabbi Michael Ben Yosef, Riamaina Yisrael Congregation. "Since 2001, there have been countless murders of people of color."
The group of community activists and pastors said from 2001 to 2017 there have been at least 51 female victims of color killed. Most lived in or frequented neighborhoods on Chicago's South and West sides.
"Young ladies have been missing from parks and public areas," said Bishop Greg Greer, Freedom First International. "They've been found in garbage cans and alleys, abandoned buildings. Strangulation and asphyxiation for the most part."
Rumors of a serial killer have been around for years, and although the Chicago Police Department is reviewing a number of cases, officials have said there's no evidence of a pattern that would point to a serial killer.
"If there were a serial killer in Chicago, I would be the first one to acknowledge it," said Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
Johnson said police have not uncovered anything that points to a serial killer at this time.
Still, Mayor Lightfoot said the number of black women murdered in the city is a concern.
"If we had better statistics on homicide clearance and we were identifying who these killers were, some of these questions would be put to rest," she said.
But it is closure and peace that Latonya Moore wants for herself and the families of other victim who are waiting for justice.
"I don't know if they are alive or not, but they need to be talked about too," she said.
Police and the FBI said they formed a taskforce in April to look for possible links among the deaths.
The community activists want to meet with the mayor and urge her to order a ramp up in the investigation of the murders.
Chicago serial killer? Activists ask Mayor Lightfoot to investigate deaths of black women on South, West sides