Chicago-area officials trying to prevent funerals for gang members from turning into shootouts say the issue has gotten so far “out of control” that one cemetery has started hiring off-duty police officers.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart met Thursday with political, religious and funeral industry leaders to discuss the problem following a funeral procession in December that was marred by gunfire.
"It's getting out of control, it really is,” Hillside Police Chief Joseph Lukaszek told FOX 32. “The gangs just think that it's a safe haven for them and they do whatever they want to do.”
Dart – who hopes to come up with proposals ready to be put into action by May – says the shootings have been escalating “over the last ten to 15 years from where it was not much of a problem… to now it occurs more frequently.”
"It's getting out of control, it really is. The gangs just think that it's a safe haven for them and they do whatever they want to do."
He told FOX 32 that at least one cemetery has been hiring off-duty cops whenever a gang member is set to be buried.
John McCall, a local funeral director, said he's increasingly worried about the safety of his employees.
"It is dramatic for the families and very dramatic even for the funeral directors, the violence that's going on and all the things that's happening. Guns and knives,” he said.
In December, Lukaszek himself rammed his squad car into a vehicle carrying three people suspected of firing at a funeral procession that was heading to Oakridge Cemetery.
Police wrestled the car’s four occupants to the ground and found guns on three of them.
"We were able to identify the car, and we started following the car after it left the cemetery so it wouldn't create any more problems there,” Lukaszek said.