Editorial: Be tougher on crime — in an effective way

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump casts a shadow against papers he used while speaking to members of the City Club of Chicago Monday. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Donald Trump isn’t right about much, but he is right about this: Chicago must do more to stop violence.

In town Monday to further his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination — and at the same time NBC was cutting ties with him for his “derogatory” remarks about immigrants — Trump told the Chicago Tribune that crime is hurting Chicago’s image.

That’s hard to argue with at a time when that Spike Lee is making a movie about the city with a working title “Chiraq.”

EDITORIAL

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Trump’s hypothesis — that the city has a crime problem because cops here aren’t tough enough — was just blather, and we hope no one takes it seriously. City neighborhoods are raked by gunfire night after night for many deep-rooted reasons, but don’t blame the inner fiber of the cops.

Trump’s theories may be outlandish, yet the crime is real. More than 1,200 Chicagoans have been shot this year. The Sunday Sun-Times reported more than 500 people have been killed in the Austin neighborhood since 2001, when the city started its crime database. Just last weekend, three men were killed in shootings and at least 18 people were wounded across the city. Chicago has to keep throwing everything it has into stopping the violence.

But it’s not just about cops. Chicago — in addition to its traditional law enforcement — is pursuing a holistic approach that includes more jobs, year-round job training, support for victims and their families, restorative communities in schools, diverting low-level offenders from the justice system, and safe places for youth activities. Over time, that will steer more young people away from crime.

On Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a six-week jobs program for 24,000 young Chicagoans who will work in urban agriculture, bike repair, outdoor forestry, and at an event at Brookfield Zoo. Part of the program links young people at a higher risk for violence with a 25-hour-per-week summer job, a mentor, cognitive behavioral therapy and social skill building.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to expand such programs at a time when state budget cuts are imperiling everything from are drug addiction services to summer jobs to afterschool programs. Springfield also isn’t being much help with gun violence. The Legislature could make a difference by requiring state licensing of gun dealers and imposing stronger penalties for people who fail to report lost or stolen guns, but it has failed to act.

Nor is Chicago getting much help from the rest of the nation. Even after the horrific shootings in Charleston, S.C., there’s little momentum in Washington for putting common-sense measures in place to stop the flow of guns into the hands of criminals in Chicago and elsewhere. Chuck’s Gun Shop & Pistol Range in Riverdale — the source of 1,516 guns recovered in Chicago crimes from 2009 to 2013 — continues business as usual. In what parallel universe does that make sense?

Yes, Chicago needs to be tough on crime, but where the city really needs to be tough is in identifying and sticking with solutions that really work.

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