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Digging Deeper: Gun violence plaguing Rockford neighborhood stems from a single block

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Gun violence and murders have spiked this year compared to last in Rockford. And for one group of neighbors, the uptick in their area seems to derive from a single block; the 500 block of Webster Avenue.

"There's always a random shooting down there," one neighbor said. "Somebody is always shooting in that one area."

That neighbor asked we not reveal her name or show her face on camera. She's afraid that if word got out she spoke to the news, the bullets she's seen fly through her neighborhood could be directed at her.

"I wouldn't feel safe telling somebody or showing my face, because I wouldn't want whoever is trying to get them to retaliate against me," she said.

But she is desperate for change in her neighborhood. She has small children that she doesn't want to see become the next victims on Webster Avenue.

Since 2017, the shootings on that block have outnumbered the seven homes that sit on it. Gunfire has erupted at least nine times, although neighbors believe the actual number is much higher than police records show.

"It's a constant thing. It's not one or two times," said one neighbor.

"Sometimes it was twice a week, maybe every other week or something like that," said a grandmother in the neighborhood.

Since 2018, four people have been shot on the 500 block of Webster Avenue. One of them was killed. He was 19.

"It's crazy because I've got a 12-year-old daughter and I've been having her stay at other people's houses because I don't want her to get shot," said Troy Fraker.

Fraker lives in the middle of the 500 block.

"I'm gonna be moving because I can't take it," said Fraker

He said the final straw was when bullets hit his house while his daughter was inside.

But most neighbors say they don't have the luxury of being able to leave. Instead, they adjust their life to being inside as much as possible.

"I don't have any little kids. Sometimes my grandkids, but they moved to Arizona, they would come over and play. But I wouldn't let them out of the yard. I want to keep them out of trouble.," said the grandmother we spoke to, who also didn't want to show her face on camera.

We knocked on multiple doors in the neighborhood. Most people were afraid to talk to us on camera, even if we said we could hide their identity. And it's not just the news they're afraid to talk to. It's also the police.

"We can't lock the people up who are doing the shootings, arrest them and build cases against them if we don't have the cooperation of the neighborhood people who know what's going on," said Chief of Police Dan O'Shea.

Chief O'Shea said he can promise neighbors anonymity and even put covert cameras on their property to catch the criminals in the act. Still, getting people to come forward is an uphill battle.

"I don't feel like the police can protect you if they want too. I just honestly feel that way," said the neighbor we introduced earlier in this story.

Of the nine shootings on the block, six of them never lead to any arrests. That leaves neighbors wondering not if, but when those who are shooting will come back.

If you have any information about any violent crimes in Rockford, you can make an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers at 815-963-7867.

Kristin Crowley

Evening News Anchor
Kristin Crowley anchors the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. news. She is also a reporter for 13 Investigates. She brings more than a decade of experience to the newsroom. Her work at WREX has earned her multiple awards including a regional Edward R. Murrow for Investigative Journalism and three regional Emmys.

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