Jeremy Gorner, Chicago Tribune, May 26, 2017
A wooden cross stands atop a patch of grass near a boarded-up apartment building in the 3400 block of West Walnut Street, where three men were shot and wounded during last year’s violent Memorial Day weekend.
Covered with a maroon cloth, the approximately 3-foot-high cross is crowded with photos of those who have passed on: some from natural causes, two who died in a car crash, but others who were the casualties of the all-too-common street violence in the West Side’s East Garfield Park neighborhood.
Michael Green, an area resident, welcomes the recent uptick in the numbers of Chicago police officers patrolling around Walnut Street. Even with his own past brushes with the law, he thinks the neighborhood badly needs police protection, especially after last year’s holiday weekend saw 20 people shot within the Harrison patrol district, including the three men shot on Walnut.
“When we was young, the streets used to be full of kids,” Green, 35, said Wednesday as he hung out on the block. “You don’t even see kids playing outside no more. Right now, it’s just a free-for-all.”
Coming off a disastrous 2016 that saw more than 760 slain and some 4,300 shot across the city, Chicago police are preparing for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, and the unofficial start of summer — traditionally, the year’s most violent stretch.
During last year’s extended weekend, 71 were shot, six fatally, making it one of the most violent Memorial Day weekends in recent memory. A year earlier, 57 people were shot, 12 fatally.
In a telephone interview, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the department will deploy an extra 1,000 officers on the streets each day from Friday through Monday. Johnson said he expects some officers’ days off will be canceled and some shifts extended beyond the normal 8½ hours—both typical moves for a summer holiday weekend.