CHICAGO — It's not just citywide shootings that have spiked in the first month of 2016 — there have been more expressway shootings this January than the past two Januarys combined.
There have been five shootings on Chicago's expressways since the start of the new year, including an 18-year-old woman shot early Tuesday while driving on the Dan Ryan. The number is more than double the number of shootings in January 2015, according to data compiled by DNAinfo Chicago and Illinois State Police.
The increase mirrors the dramatic rise in gun violence through the beginning of this year.
But State Police officials emphasize that shootings are often the result of prior conflicts, and the victims are not random.
Expressway drivers represent just a small portion of victims shot inside a car so far this year.
As of Jan. 25, nearly 40 out of this year's 199 shootings as involved a victim in a car, records show. Included in those figures is a 19-year-old woman who was shot while driving northbound on Lake Shore Drive near Lawrence Avenue in the afternoon hours of Jan. 2.
The five highway shootings this month are higher than any other January total for the past six years. The second highest expressway shooting count for January since 2010 is two, recorded in 2013, 2014 and 2015, records show.
If shootings remain on January's pace, Chicago will tally 60 expressway shootings in 2016, a figure that would eclipse the total number of shootings from the last three years combined, according to DNAinfo Chicago records and data received from Illinois State Police.
A spokesman for Illinois State Police, which has jurisdiction over Chicago's expressways except for the Chicago Skyway, could not immediately confirm the increase in shootings, but said anecdotally that the incidents seem to be on the rise.
"It sure seems like it," said Master Sgt. Jason Bradley, a state police spokesman.
In fact, expressway shootings have increased every year since 2012, when nine were recorded in Chicago. There were 15 highway shootings in 2015, 18 in 2014 and 19 in 2015, according to state police data.
Though cases of shootings may be on the rise, Bradley said the area's expressways are not unsafe for commuters. He said many of the cases stem from altercations that begin on side streets or other locations before spilling onto the highway.
"Generally, there is something that is sparking these incidents," Bradley said. "You don't have to get on the Dan Ryan worrying you might be shot."
In the early Thursday incident, the shooting stemmed from an altercation the two drivers got into near the intersection of 79th Street and Lafayette Avenue in Chatham. The 18-year-old woman fled in her car and was pursued onto the Dan Ryan via the 79th Street ramp when she was shot, police said.
And because the shootings often stem from earlier conflicts, victims have been hesitant to help state troopers, Bradley said.
"We have a lack of cooperation with the victims," he said. "It is hard for us to know what is gang related."
Expressway shootings this year include:
• A man was shot while driving southbound on the Dan Ryan near 79th Street on Jan. 7.
• A 25-year-old man was killed and a 23-year-old woman was wounded when someone shot at them on the Skyway on the afternoon of Jan. 13.
• A man was shot while driving northbound on the Kennedy Expy. near Wilson Avenue, which caused an early morning shutdown of the expressway, on Jan 16.
• A man was shot while driving on Interstate 57 near 111th Street early morning on Jan. 23.
• An 18-year-old woman was shot while she got on the Dan Ryan via the 79th Street ramp on Thursday.
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