From The Archives: Daley promises ‘bold’ plan, National Guard ‘strictly an option’ (1992)

SHARE From The Archives: Daley promises ‘bold’ plan, National Guard ‘strictly an option’ (1992)

Roland Martin is the latest person to suggest the National Guard be deployed to Chicago to address the issue of violence after this deadly Fourth of July weekend. The hashtag #FixingChicago quickly spread on Wednesday to refute the call for deployment.

Trendworthy: #FixingChicago just got started, but will it work?

It’s hardly the first time the suggestion has been made.

In 1992, Chicago Housing Authority chairman Vincent Lane suggested the National Guard be used to reclaim housing projects in Cabrini-Green. The push came after the death of Dantrell Davis, a 7-year-old caught in gang crossfire while walking to school with his mother on October 13.

That year, Chicago Police recorded 943 murders.

Response to the call for National Guard deployment was as tepid then as it is today.

By Basil Talbott and Neil Steinberg

Originally published October 19, 1992

A grim Mayor Daley hosted an emergency City Hall summit on Sunday about violence in public housing and came up with the beginnings of a plan to secure the bullet-riddled Cabrini-Green complex.

Afterward, Daley said that today he will announce a “bold” plan involving local, state and federal authorities to reduce violence, “first at Cabrini, then at all public housing.”

The summit was set after Chicago Housing Authority Chairman Vincent Lane proposed to call in the National Guard to bring peace to the gang-ridden 91-building complex on the edge of the city’s prosperous Gold Coast.

Daley, who would not go into specifics, said bringing in the Guard was “strictly an option that’s out there.”

Sources in the four-hour meeting said there was little enthusiasm for use of the Guard, but that Lane was holding out as leverage his earlier call for the Guard to ensure there was enough manpower to do the job.

“I’m satisfied,” Lane said. “I think we will be able to solve the problem.”

Daley summoned city and other leaders to his office less than a day after 7-year-old Dantrell Davis, felled on the way to school in Cabrini-Green by a sniper, was buried.

“We have seen a complete breakdown of society where people are taking guns and shooting children,” Daley said before closeting himself with city and state law enforcement officials and executives of public schools and parks.

Daley press spokesman Jim Williams said the mayor cut a weekend vacation short by a few hours to hold the summit. Asked if Daley’s early return was prompted by criticism of his absence during the crisis, Williams replied, “We have a very cynical press in Chicago.”

It was only the fourth time in four years Daley had a public event on a Sunday, said press aide Noelle Gaffney. Daley had been at a parents’ weekend at the Connecticut college attended by his daughter Nora and at a golf tournament Thursday with the Kennedys at Hyannis Port, Mass., Williams said. Daley showed signs of a sunburn that his aides said he got before the trip.

“The mayor’s first responsibility is to his family,” Williams said.

Catalyst for the summit was the provocative CHA chairman. Going against the political grain in many public housing neighborhoods, Lane lobbied for the Guard on the ground that other enforcement resources were stretched to the limits.

“We don’t have the manpower to respond to all the buildings,” Lane said in an interview before the meeting. He said 350 guardsmen would be needed to secure the perimeter of 31 high-rise sites in Cabrini-Green while trained police searched door-to-door.

Over all, about 700 federal and state law enforcement personnel – some for as long as three months – would be needed for Cabrini alone, Lane said.

Among the 20 officials who met with Daley were Chicago Police Supt. Matt Rodriguez; State Police Director Terry Gainer; Chicago School Supt. Ted D. Kimbrough; Gertrude Jordan, regional director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Chicago Park

District President Richard Devine, and Robert C. Penn, general superintendent of the Chicago Park District.

Looking weary in a wrinkled trench coat as he arrived in his office, Daley agreed with Lane that “fewer police were a problem.” He blamed that on “a city budget crisis” and slight of cities by the last two presidents. “Let’s be realistic. America has not taken care of itself for 12 years.”

Expressing full confidence in Lane, Daley said sweeps of other CHA developments have been effective. “Just last week, they pulled a lot of guns out of a project, much more sophisticated guns than before.”

The mayor was referring to a sweep last Monday of low-rise Altgeld Gardens by several cooperating law agencies. Some 50 State Police officers participated, and about 20 weapons were seized, Lane said.

Such sweeps have been conducted for a year and a half with the cooperation of the FBI, the Cook County sheriff’s office, U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Lane said there have been sweeps at Rockwell Gardens, Stateway Gardens, Altgeld Gardens, Ida B. WellsHomes and a signficant part of the Robert Taylor Homes.

Homicide, robbery, rape, auto theft and other major crimes were sharply reduced in CHA housing in the last year, Lane said, offering to supply police records to substantiate his claim.

Lane has credibility with public officials of both parties. Still, his lobbying for the Guard attracted skepticism and little backing.

Supporters range from Senate GOP nominee Richard S. Williamson, who made an issue of it, to County Commissioner Danny K. Davis, who said it was worth a try.

Skeptics include Democratic Senate nominee Carol Moseley Braun, who said nobody likes his home occupied, Cook County Board President Richard J. Phelan and lame-duck Rep. Charles A. Hayes.

“It scares me,” said Phelan of Lane’s proposal. “I don’t know how you would get the Guard out of there once it’s in.”

Hayes worried the cleanup is a prelude to knocking down Cabrini-Green for condos. “Just to bring in guards and have them clubbing on some of those people, some of them who aren’t even guilty of nothing, is wrong,” Hayes said.

At the funeral for Dantrell Davis, 24-year-old Shawnetta Hawkins, a resident of Cabrini-Green, displayed mixed feelings.

“It could help, but you know they can’t stay there forever,” she said. “Then what does it say to the young kids about where they live? It says, `Where you live is so bad, the police aren’t good enough to keep you safe, you need the Army practically.’ “

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