Chicago's Top Cop: It's not a police issue, it's a society issue
After another violent holiday weekend, Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Tuesday his department is doing all it can to combat violence rooted in “impoverished neighborhoods” where “people without hope do these kinds of things.”
“It’s not a police issue, it’s a society issue,” Johnson told reporters outside police headquarters after a long weekend that saw 65 people shot, 13 of them fatally.
“Impoverished neighborhoods, people without hope do these kinds of things,” he said. “You show me a man that doesn’t have hope, I’ll show you one that’s willing to pick up a gun and do anything with it.
“Those are the issues that’s driving this violence. CPD is doing its job,” he continued.
Johnson pointed to increases in gun arrests this year over last year — and more than 6,000 illegal gun recoveries so far in 2016 — as evidence that officers are out on the streets working.
But he acknowledged that the fallout from last year’s release of the Laquan McDonald video, and the amplified distrust between the police and African-American community, doesn’t make it easy for his officers.
“Of course, they’re human. They’re people,” Johnson said. “So of course, nobody wants to be the next viral video. These officers have families to take care of too.”
The weekend had begun relatively quietly. But the violence spiked on the last day, with 31 shot between 6 a.m. Monday and 3 a.m. Tuesday. Nine of the fatal shootings occurred over that period.
Among those shot was Crystal Myer, who was nine months pregnant and was wounded in the abdomen on the same block where someone had been killed less than 20 hours earlier. No information on the baby was available. A man she was standing near was left in critical condition in the same shooting around 3:30 p.m. in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.
Farther south, a retired pastor from East Chicago, Ind. was shot to death outside a senior housing complex in the South Shore neighborhood around 6:30 a.m. Monday.
Police say the man was found dead, shot in the face outside the Senior Suites of Rainbow Beach near 77th and Exchange around 6:30 a.m. Monday. Residents identified the man as Allen H. Smith and said they heard him arguing with another man before shots were fired.
Police said they took into custody another resident of the home. No charges had been filed.
The Labor Day weekend was the deadliest of the three holiday weekends this summer. The Memorial Day weekend saw 69 shot, six of them fatally, and the Fourth of July weekend recorded 66 shot, five of them fatal.
Early Monday morning, it appeared Chicago had a chance of ending a holiday weekend with fewer than four dozen people shot, which would have made it one of the least violent weekends of the summer.
The uptick in shootings in this weekend’s final hours mirrored the end of the Fourth of July. Gunfire in the final hours of that holiday made up half the entire weekend’s bloodshed.
Police attributed the 11th-hour surge to retaliatory acts, often involving gangs, after a weekend of parties and tense encounters.
Homicides in Chicago this year have risen to levels not seen since the 1990s, when killings peaked at more than 900 annually.
The 92 homicides in August was the most the city had seen in a single month since July 1993 when 99 people were slain.
Through 5 a.m. Tuesday, the city recorded 488 homicides, marking a 47 percent increase from 331 for the same year-earlier period and exceeding the 481 for the entire 2015, according to official Police Department statistics.
The number of shooting victims has topped 2,930, approaching the 2,988 total for all of last year, according to a Tribune analysis.
Even at 488 homicides, the Police Department’s statistics do not include killings on area expressways, police-involved shootings, other justifiable homicides or death investigations that could later be reclassified as homicides.
The Tribune’s own database, which primarily uses the Cook County medical examiner’s office to determine whether to count a death as a homicide, put the total number of killings at 512 as of early Tuesday.
Homicides and shootings in Chicago continue to far outpace both New York and Los Angeles, both bigger cities. According to official statistics through late August, the most recent publicly available, New York and Los Angeles had a combined 409 homicides, well below Chicago’s total.
Tribune reporter Christy Gutowski contributed.
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