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Lightfoot marshals City Hall to tackle summer violence

The mayor unveiled a plan to tackle violence by flooding historically troubled areas with a host of services.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot outlines a holistic approach to curbing violence this summer during a news conference at Whitney Young Library in the Chatham neighborhood,
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday outlined a holistic approach to curbing violence this summer.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Saying she wants to have “the safest summer in the history of the city of Chicago,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday unveiled a plan to tackle violence by flooding historically troubled areas with a host of services.

Lightfoot described it as a “whole-of-government” approach.

“This is exactly how public safety is supposed to work, not law enforcement alone. We know that is a failed approach,” Lightfoot said, flanked by a host of city department heads at a news conference at the Whitney Young Library in Chatham.

Lightfoot said the strategy has been in the works for several weeks and targets 15 of the city’s most violent police districts based on figures from 2018 to 2020. Those districts, on the South and West sides, will be divided into four zones, she said.

The mayor said she has asked each of her department heads to assign specific personnel to the four zones. Working with faith-based organizations and nonprofits, among others, the city aims to beef up everything from summer work opportunities for youth to streetlight repair and graffiti removal programs.

“If we can make a meaningful difference in these areas, we will make a meaningful difference in the entirety of public safety across the whole city,” the mayor said.

Asked why she thought this approach would work this summer when similar ones hadn’t, she said: “I don’t know what you’ve heard before, but this is different in my 20-plus years’ knowledge of city government.”

“We are honing in on those areas that historically been most challenged by violence, and we are bringing everyone to the table,” the mayor said. “Our historical approach as a city, prior to the time that I became mayor, is just relying on the Chicago Police Department and hoping for the best.”

She said discussions have been very specific, looking, for example, at how many young people live on each block in the affected areas and how many services are available to them.

“So there has been a very different, granular conversation, bringing in not only city resources, but community resources in a way to help support these neighborhoods,” the mayor said. “This the first time we’re doing this. We are going to be monitoring our progress throughout the course of the summer.”