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Use of high powered weapons by criminals along with young age of suspects creates concern for Rockford’s police chief

ROCKFORD (WREX) — Rockford Police say they aren't quite sure what's behind the spike in crime. However, Chief Dan O'Shea says he knows there's some disturbing trends among these criminals.

O'Shea says it's not only the spike in violence that's concerning but also the ages of people behind some of the crimes. He says for certain teenagers, there's only one path forward.

"17-year olds that are going around killing and shooting at people I don't know what to tell you," says O'Shea. "Sorry, off to prison you go. I got nothing for you. Your family failed you up to this point and there's nothing I can do for you."

O'Shea says his department's focus is on intervening in the lives of children who are headed for a future of crime, zeroing in on kids as young as three to about 14 years old. Older teens, he says, are already too wrapped up in a life of violent crime to be saved.

"The 16, 17 year olds running around shooting each other. We aren't wasting our time trying to save them. They're lost."

But it's not just teens police are worried about. Twice in one week O'Shea says violent criminals opened fire on his officers. The first was after a murder at a gas station on West State Street while the second happened over the weekend at the Super 8 Motel standoff.

"Unfortunately we're seeing a lot more rifles and higher powered handguns in recent years along with high capacity magazines. If we didn't have ballistic shields out there I can tell you almost certainly one officer would’ve been hit by those rounds."

O'Shea says there's only one way to ensure the safety of his officers and the community.

"Violent criminals, gun toting idiots that are shooting this town up need to go into this system and go away for a long time."

Anyone with information on any of the city's recent violence is urged to call police at 815-966-2900 or leave an anonymous tip with Rockford Area CrimeStoppers at 815-693-7867.

Mary Sugden

Mary Sugden is the Investigative Reporter at WREX. She joined the team in December 2014 as the evening producer. In 2015 she made the move to evening reporter before joining the 13 Investigates team in May of 2018.

She grew up in Woodstock, Illinois and graduated from Woodstock High School in 2009. Mary graduated with a degree in Journalism and Marketing from Loyola University Chicago in 2013.

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