Illinois state police step up patrols after rash of shootings on Chicago highways
Handgun in man's pants (Shutterstock)

Illinois State Police launched increased patrols on highways in the Chicago area and deployed undercover officers this week to try to stop a surge in shootings on expressways that traverse the city.

There have been seven shootings on Chicago expressways so far this year, none of them fatal. Last year there were 40 shootings, up from 19 a year earlier. Of those 59 shootings only one of them was fatal, in 2014, the state police said.

The jump in highway shootings comes as murders and shootings through the city have surged. Chicago had more than 480 murders in 2015, up from 407 a year earlier, and there were 51 murders in January, the highest number for any month of January since 2000.

Most of the highway shootings are at night, from one car to another, a state police official said on Thursday. The official, who said he was not authorized to be named, said it was not clear why such shootings had increased.

"Over the last couple of years, gang-related gun violence has escalated and is shifting onto the Chicago expressways," the state police said in a statement earlier this week. "Expressway shootings pose an extreme danger to the motoring public and cause the affected expressway's lanes to be shut down for hours at a time to process rolling crime scenes."

Expressways inside Chicago are the jurisdiction of state police, but Chicago police and Cook County Sheriff's police will coordinate with the state police on the drive to combat expressway shootings, the state police said.

(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Bill Rigby)