Pounding the podium with emotion, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday he’s outraged by the bloodbath of violence that claimed the life of a 6-year-old playing on her porch in front of her parents and nearly killed a Chicago Police officer.
“What happened is unacceptable. Our streets are for our children and for our law-abiding parents. I cannot think of anything worse than if a family is hanging out on their front porch [enjoying] nice spring-like weather that that is violated by violence. Our streets do not belong to gang-bangers,” Emanuel said.
“While obviously 10 [murders] over a weekend is dramatic, it is too frequent and too normal. I will not allow a child in Chicago to not have – as long as I’m mayor and I have something to do about it – the most basic of rights, which is the ability to play in their neighborhood, play on their streets and grow up with that sense of normalcy.”
After returning from a spring break ski trip to Park City, Utah, with his three children, the mayor renewed his demand for a citywide gang strategy.
On Friday, police Supt. Garry McCarthy detailed some elements of the strategy for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Next week, for example, beat cops in 10 of the city’s most dangerous districts will receive the results of “gang audits” that describe which blocks are controlled by which gangs and the names of the gang members, McCarthy said. Eventually, the department will conduct such audits for all 23 districts, he said.
Cops will initially get printed reports of the audit results, but the plan is to make the information available to them on their in-car computers, McCarthy said. Beat cops can move more quickly to stop retaliatory shootings if they know the players on both sides of the conflict, he said.
In another part of the strategy, McCarthy said tactical officers will no longer leave their districts without the approval of him or his deputy superintendent – except for emergencies such as police shootings. Their sole focus will be on stopping gang violence, he said.
In the past, tactical officers were often assigned to duties outside their districts, such as patrolling the St. Patrick’s Day Parade downtown, because their schedules are more flexible than those of beat cops, McCarthy said.
McCarthy also said the department will launch a new effort to document how many gang conflicts are happening in the city at any point in time. If a conflict results in a shooting, the department will try to learn all the factors that led up to it to “connect the dots,” he said.
And McCarthy said the department will work with the courts and prosecutors to figure out which laws aren’t being used to their fullest to fight gangs and whether new legislation is needed.
Chicago’s latest wave of gang violence included the fatal shooting last Saturday of 6-year-old Aliyah Shell in broad daylight in front of her parents as she played on her family’s front porch in Little Village. Two teenagers, both alleged street gang members, have been charged with her murder.
Two days later, decorated Chicago Police Officer Del Pearson was shot and seriously wounded by a 20-year-old who had boasted on his Facebook page about his ties to a gang.
Pearson was chasing the suspect down an alley in the South Chicago neighborhood after trying to question him about an alleged curfew violation.
Emanuel is well aware that some Chicagoans may dismiss those shootings as having occurred in high-crime neighborhoods. But he said he won’t tolerate that parochial attitude.
“The children of Little Village are the children of Chicago. The children of Englewood are the children of Chicago. The children of Archer Heights are the children of Chicago,” he said at an unrelated news conference at Curie High School.
“I understand the comfort that comes with, ‘It didn’t happen in my neighborhood.’ But it happened in your city and any child who is a victim of violence because they were on the front porch is a tear at the city’s fabric.”
McCarthy said earlier this week that gangs were responsible for almost all of the 37 shootings and nine murders that occurred from Friday through Sunday.
Emanuel said Chicago has a “unique problem as it relates to gangs that’s different than other cities” and it requires a full-court press that includes heavy community involvement.
“I’ve asked for a citywide anti-gang strategy . . . and [McCarthy] is working through exactly what I’ve asked and I’ve talked to him before about it,” the mayor said.
“They’re working through a series of issues. I don’t expect him to turn something around [on a dime, but] I want more than just, `We have an anti-gang unit.’ I want a strategy that’s comprehensive to the problem and the challenge we face.”