Last Updated:April 15 @ 10:13 pm

As homicides spike, Chicago mayor defends tactics

By Don Babwin

CHICAGO (AP) - Chicago's mayor and police superintendent publicly defended their new gang-fighting strategy Monday amid growing criticism that the changes are failing and a big reason why the city's homicide rate has soared this year.

After weeks of media reports about Chicago homicides — which so far are up nearly 38 percent from last year — Mayor Rahm Emanueland Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy defiantly said during a news conference that the gang strategies in place before McCarthyarrived were the ones that failed, not the new ones.

More beat officers are now on the streets and staying in specific areas, replacing the large, specialized units that would temporarily drop into crime-ridden areas. Emanuel and McCarthy said they have no plans to change that strategy, and the mayor announced Monday that he's devoting another $4 million to tear down vacant buildings where gang members live and store guns and drugs.

The old tactic of flooding high-crime areas with teams of hundreds of officers for a short period of time, then moving the teams to other areas, was "like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound," McCarthy said. "We're not repairing anything by doing that."

Emanuel, who has made attacking the city's street gangs a cornerstone of his administration, was equally dismissive of the effectiveness of those citywide units.

"I don't think coming in, swatting something down and letting it come back in two weeks is strengthening a community," he said. "What it does is build up cynicism."

However, the mayor and police leader rolled out their new anti-gang strategies at a time when the homicide rate was quickly increasing. Among the more recent high-profile deaths was a 7-year-old girl hit by a stray bullet while selling candy outside her home.

And on Monday, the Chicago Tribune ran a front-page story that included blistering criticism from two aldermen whose wards have been the center of much of the gang violence. One alderman said gang members no longer fear that they'll encounter the so-called strike units, which included dozens or even hundreds of officers who would temporarily saturate violent neighborhoods.

Chicago has averaged about 450 homicides a year since 2005, which is a dramatic drop from the roughly 900 homicides the city was experiencing annually in the early 1990s. Still, McCarthy said the current numbers are unacceptable — and noted that the city recorded about the same number of homicides last year as New York City, which is three times the size of Chicago.

"That's not success and I'm not willing to take it as success," said McCarthy, who spent much of his career as a New York City policeman.

He and Emanuel insisted that their crime-fighting strategies are paying off, noting that the city's overall crime rate has dropped 10 percent compared to the same time last year. McCarthy also said there is evidence that police are on the right track in their fight against street gangs.

"This weekend, there was half the number of shootings, half the number of murders as we had the same time last year," he said. He also noted that the amount of shootings over the weekend marked the fewest since February.

Quietly, though, some police officers have wondered about the wisdom of disbanding the large specialized units that were deployed by McCarthy's two immediate predecessors, Jody Weis and Phil Cline.

Weis said Monday that the units, which were sent to locations where a violent incident had occurred or in anticipation of where one might occur, were a big reason why the number of homicides fell when Cline was superintendent and during his last two years on the job.

"No one is proud of that, 450 homicides. But before these units were formed, there were 600," said Weis, a former FBI agent who was Chicago's police commissioner from 2008 until early 2011.

McCarthy, who replaced Weis when Emanuel became mayor, said that while Chicago's police force no longer has those citywide units, it finally has a citywide gang-fighting strategy that it never had before — one that pays special attention to the fact that much of the violence is tied to gangs retaliating against each other.

And Emanuel said there are other components of that citywide strategy, including targeting liquor stores and other businesses that police and community activists have identified as gang hangouts. Several have been closed.

Police also are doing gang audits, so they can identify where specific gangs operate and their members. And the plan the mayor announced Monday calls for the city to spend $4 million to tear down or board up vacant buildings that have been identified as places where gangs live, deal and store drugs, and hide guns.

Gangs, the mayor said, "will not find shelter in the city of Chicago."

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6 Comments

  1. BillzillaComment by Billzilla
    July 10, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

    Never let a good crisis go to waste ehhhh, Mayor Emanuel? How’s this working out for you Mr. Mayor?

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    Rating: 4.8/5 (18 votes cast)
  2. capricorn1Comment by capricorn1
    July 10, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

    chicago police dept needs shoot to kill orders on ganbangers.
    the more you pacify a problem the worse it will get.

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    Rating: 4.7/5 (13 votes cast)
  3. MichaellabordeComment by Michaellaborde
    July 10, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

    Rom the myfia gunman libetard should do like Obama does in Afganistan and Pakestan where he murders even children with drones, oops, I forgot that it’s illegal to murder unless you are messiah. Rom the gun myfia man had better figure out how to cook the books on mob murders, oops again, Obama is already doing that with voter motor and unemployment figures. Just what can Rom the gun hitman do illegally that Obama is not doing illegally? Answer is! nothing.

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  4. colt1911Comment by armedinfidel
    July 10, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

    Those that look and/or behave like gang members should be shot. Nothing short of that will be effective

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  5. joelinpdxComment by joelinpdx
    July 10, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

    Can’t be taking down the gang members…they’ll grow up to be good Democlowns.

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  6. peter1589Comment by peter1589
    July 11, 2012 @ 9:41 pm

    Well, when teens have babies, and no daddies are around, being only children themselves anyway, cops and robbers games get just a LITTLE more serious, don’t they? Anybody notice the TOTAL lack of religion in these “communities”? Jesus Christ remains TOTALLY ignored in the Blessed Sacraments of Catholic Churches around the world, and who ends up conducting the band? Satan himself. Think I’m a nutcase? Wait till death shows you what God showed me. Satan is in his final days and running rampant in the secular world, which is everything outside of Catholicism and, for that matter, most “learned” Catholics as well. When Melinda Gates, a nominal Catholic, says she’s going to go back to the roots of the Gates’ philanthropic ideal of widespread birth control, trying to ease the pain of women “suffering” with too many kids to feed by killing the fetuses, can herself feed a zillion kids and has only one or two, then we can easily say that satan has entered the high places. Pray the Rosary and the St. Michael chaplet.

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