Chicago Gangs Rob Train Shipment of Guns; Few Recovered


Composite image by Anderson Graphics.

Poorly protected Chicago railyards have helped fuel the city’s homicide rate.

Trevor Wickstrom, Staff Reporter

In the past few years Chicago has become infamous as a city of violence. According to the Associated Press, in 2016 the city hit a record high for murders, 762 in a single year–a jump up from 478 in 2015.

Police and politicians say that gang activity is rampant throughout Chicago, interfering with people trying to make an honest, safe living.  The city has very strict gun  laws, and more of them, than the rest of the state of Illinois, but this does not seem to be doing much to the problem.

Many of these gang members buy and use homemade, old and beat-up or off-brand (so called “bargain”) guns. Some of them are purchased legally in nearby states by straw buyers and then re-sold on Chicago’s black market.  Gang members also prefer guns with the serial numbers scratched off, making these guns much harder to trace to other crimes.

These gangs have found a new way of getting their bloody hands on nice, new weapons–for free. They are now breaking into freight cars full of guns.

In the biggest heist, fall of 2015, a shipment of brand new Ruger .45 revolvers (which one gang member referred to as as “pretty”) was stolen in the middle of the night and resold before schools even opened that morning.  These guns would be an unusual choice for a gang member, being large, heavy, cowboy-style weapons.

According to Fox News, since 2013, 150 guns have been stolen out of similar freight cars in three separate robberies. Out of those 150 guns, only sixteen (including a handful of those Rugers) have been recovered and others were traced to violent crimes. The Alcohol, Tabacco, and Firearms (ATF) office in Chicago, one single gun can sometimes be traced to as many as fourteen fatal shootings.

Fox News, quoting a former (retired) ATF agent, blamed the rail yard for not having sufficient security. Norfolk Southern Rail Yard claims they are fully liable and works with the law to keep the sensitive items safe.  The ATF agent doesn’t agree, saying the rail company is well insured, and losing shipment is cheaper than putting up better fences and security.

In email from Norfolk Southern to the Fox reporter, a company spokesman said, “Norfolk Southern’s Chicago-based police department, the largest freight railroad law enforcement force in the city, is increasing patrols of rail yards using uniformed officers in marked cars and K-9 units. ”

Susan Terpay, the company spokesperson, also wrote, “In addition, the department is  conducting undercover surveillance investigations.”

Clearly the current approaches to security, law, and an orderly society aren’t working too well in the Windy City. Whether the answer lies in better-funded schools, better job opportunities, better parenting, or better laws, is anyone’s guess.