Chicago parents call for better police presence after 2 murders along Safe Passage routes

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Two murders near a West Side school has prompted parents to ask for more police protection.

The shootings occurred near Lake Street and Central Avenue in the Austin neighborhood, along specially designated Safe Passage routes for school kids. Police point out it did not occur during Safe Passage hours, but parents are still upset.

“It’s frightening, to be coming to pick your kids up, and people shooting all across. We need more police protection here,” Castella Weatherspoon, who is a student’s grandmother.

When the Ellington School let out this afternoon, Weatherspoon was there, like she is every afternoon to walk her 6-year-old Grandson home from school. As always, the street corners nearby were filled with Safe Passage workers. But Thursday, there was something new along the safe passage route on Central Avenue, which was balloons and signature boards as a tribute to the 22-year-old man who was shot and killed there on Wednesday.

“Well it's supposed to be a safe passage route and it should be, but I just don't feel it's safe right now,” Weatherspoon said.

The Safe Passage program was initiated by Chicago Public Schools after the 2009 beating death of Fenger High School's Derrion Albert. It provides hundreds of unarmed escorts along designated safety routes. Wednesday’s shooting death was the second one this year along a Safe Passage route near Ellington School. Witnesses say the victim was shot and killed just inside the door at The Shoe Shine King, less than block from Ellington school. Art student Woodrow Grover, who once attended Ellington, says there used to be a police officer nearby on most days.

“There used to be one on the corner and one in the store, in this store right here in the corner, all the time. But I don't know what happened to him,” said Grover, who was the victim’s friend.

Some parents now prefer to drive their kids to school, rather than walk the Safe Passage routes.

FOX 32: You live just a block away or so?

“Yes, and the majority of time I drive to avoid the things that are going on in the neighborhood. So no, I don't feel safe,” said parent Natalie Rollins.

Safe Passage workers say they can't talk to the media. A spokesperson for Chicago police says the safety workers partner with police to provide visibility and awareness along the routes, while other police patrol the routes to ensure what they call an ”omnipresence."