On the heels of another bloody weekend in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and top local and federal law enforcement officials met privately Monday with about 40 community leaders on what needs to be done to reduce the violence.
Participants later said that among the solutions discussed were the need for more programs for at-risk youths, tougher gun laws and better interaction between the community and police.
The meeting came after a particularly violent Fourth of July weekend brought renewed national attention to Chicago’s violence and ramped up pressure on Emanuel and police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to do something about it. This past weekend then saw more than 40 people shot, four of them fatally, including an 11-year-old girl fatally struck by an errant bullet that entered a West Side home where she was on a sleepover with friends.
The father of another symbol of Chicago’s senseless violence – Hadiya Pendleton, 15, who was slain last year not far from the Kenwood neighborhood home of President Barack Obama – said after the 90-minute closed-door meeting at Chicago police headquarters that the ideas discussed weren’t anything new and that the community is “still in limbo.”
“We can keep discussing the same things, but sooner or later, we have to come to a point where we’re going to take action,” said Nathaniel Pendleton, who acknowledged that solving the violence problem will take more than just one meeting.
The Rev. Michael Pfleger, who also attended the meeting, said he was gratified that Emanuel, police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and other officials listened to the audience’s concerns instead of “being told about all the great things that are being done.”
Pfleger, senior pastor of the South Side's St. Sabina Catholic Church, raised concern that many city services are only offered online yet most residents of the Auburn Gresham community -- where his church is located -- don't have access to the Internet.
At a brief public session before the meeting started, Emanuel made note of last week’s announcement that additional federal agents will assist in the fight against violence in Chicago, but he cautioned the solutions are far more complex.
“It is a community-wide problem which requires a community-wide solution,” he said.
After the meeting, McCarthy told reporters that the lines of communication need to be improved between the community, police and other agencies such as the Chicago Public Schools and the city Department of Family and Support Services.
“We were not organized well enough to deliver the communication that was necessary to put people in the right place or to get the information into the hands of the people that actually could use it the most,” he said. “So we will be working on a method of delivery, if you will, of various services that are available.”
McCarthy said another meeting with community leaders would be planned for later.
So far this year, shooting incidents have risen nearly 7 percent, while homicides have dropped almost 6 percent to 203, down from 215 during the year-earlier period, according to Police Department statistics. But at least 11 “death investigations” remain pending -- and some of those could be reclassified to homicides after further investigation.