As the long holiday weekend gets underway, thousands of Chicago police officers are taking to city streets in an effort to prevent violence during the unofficial kickoff to summer.
Memorial Day Weekend has historically been met with an uptick in violence and with shootings already on the rise this year, Chicago and Illinois State Police are promising extra patrols on foot, bike and air.
“Beginning now, several thousand Chicago police officers will be deployed in uniform throughout neighborhood, parks, roadways and lakefront to make sure everyone has safe and enjoyable holiday weekend,” Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said during a press conference Thursday.
So far this year, shootings are up more than 50 percent in Chicago compared to 2015. Last year’s Memorial Day weekend saw 12 people killed and another 56 shot.
Earlier this week, police were asking officers to come to work on their days off and work overtime over the long weekend.
But in addition to city violence, commuters have been concerned about the rise in expressway shootings throughout the area. There have been 20 so far this year, up eight from this time last year.
With a spike in travelers expected on area roadways, state police say they plan to step up patrols as well.
“This weekend we’ll have extra crews out here, covert cars out here and we’ll have air support,” said ISP Director Leo Schmitz, who noted many of the expressway shootings are the result of gang conflict. “We’ll be watching and working with partners hand in hand.”
In addition to attempting to prevent expressway shootings, state police will also be cracking down on drunk drivers over the holiday weekend.
Roadside safety checks and speed enforcement patrols will be scattered along expressways.