CHICAGO — In an effort to combat escalating violence on Chicago's expressways, state police have launched a new initiative to take weapons and dangerous individuals off area highways.
The campaign has already paid dividends, according to Illinois State Police, as troopers have seized seven guns and have arrested 27 in the operation's first week beginning Feb. 17, state police said in a press release Friday night.
State police's new initiative comes amid rising expressway shootings. DNAinfo Chicago previously reported that highway shootings have spiked, with January tallying more highway shootings — at least six — than the last two Januarys combined.
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.
In response to the uptick, state police launched the Chicago Expressway Anti-Violence Surge. With the campaign, troopers are targeting specific areas looking for guns and other contraband that might lead to highway shootings, state police said in a press release.
Since the campaign started Feb. 17, troopers have made 27 arrests, including three unlawful use of weapon arrests. Troopers have also made five drug seizures, arrested 38 for driving while intoxicated and have written over 1,300 tickets, according to the press release.
Seven weapons were confiscated, including a high-powered assault rifle.
State Troopers have seized seven guns, including an assault rifle, since launching a new operation to crack down on highway shootings. [Provided]
"This was a great start to reducing gun violence on the Chicago expressways," Illinois State Police Colonel Tad Williams said in a statement. "I am extremely proud of our brave men and women in uniform who are putting forth tremendous effort to suppress criminal activity. Their teamwork and dedication is sending a clear message that violence on the expressways will not be tolerated."
State police have not said where or when the operation takes place so as not to tip off criminals, said Master Sgt. Jason Bradley, spokesman for state police. He said the new effort will continue for 30 days, when the department will review their efforts and potentially say more about the operation.
There has been one reported highway shooting in Chicago since the operation began, according to Bradley, although there were no reported victims from the incident.
The highway shootings do not appear to be random, said Bradley, a state police spokesman. Many of the incidents are the culmination of confrontations that begin on Chicago streets, he said.
"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."
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