The gang crisis: Emanuel owns it now

Up on the podium with Emanuel on Thursday at the South Side's Area Central Headquarters were the usual suspects — police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, aldermen and community leaders.

It looked exactly like so many others you've seen over the years — other desperate mayors coming up with grand plans.

"We already have more than 200 officers citywide doing exactly what we're talking about," said McCarthy. "Getting these officers out the door quickly from their assignments — which, by the way, we just identified — putting them into a place where they can make a difference. This was the simplest, easiest, best assignment that we could do, was put them into the area task forces."

The senior cops we talked to after Emanuel's crisis-management public relations event weren't impressed.

"We've had more retired than those hired — it's all smoke and mirrors," said the veteran West Side cop.

The waves of police retirements aren't the only problem where he works. The main problem, he says, is the brazen attitude of the gangbangers. He doesn't think their boss from New York, Superintendent McCarthy, gets it.

"There's no fear of the police by the criminal element — that's the real problem," said the longtime officer. "This ain't New York, and he (McCarthy) wants to run it like it's New York. We have more modern gangs than they have in New York. Our gangs go elsewhere in the country and set up shop."

A South Side veteran said the mayor's new initiative — shoveling clerical personnel onto the street — is in effect Emanuel's admission that police are understaffed.

"They can no longer say that manpower isn't down ... there's no doubt about that," said the officer, who has experience as a beat cop, detective and watch commander. "And this is a way of getting more policemen on the streets without spending money."

While the Chicago news media focus often on Englewood on the South Side and West Garfield Park on the West, other neighborhoods are about to boil over, cops say.

As an example, he cited the gangs of Marquette Park. The Southwest Side area's African-American and Latino gangs are breaking up into block-by-block factions that are feuding with each other, coordinating fights through social media, he said.

""It's a huge breakdown in gang leadership," he said. "They're all factioned off."

The crisis is building for a smart mayor in a tough spot. It's all his now. He owns it. Twitter @John_Kass