By John Byrne
2:51 PM CDT, March 23, 2012
Mayor Rahm Emanuel today called on residents to help police take back their neighborhoods in the wake of a spate of shootings around Chicago.
The mayor said the spike in violence -- including 49 shootings with 10 fatalities last weekend and the Monday shooting of Chicago police officer Del Pearson -- "tears at the city's fabric."
"This is not alone a law enforcement issue, although it needs -- law enforcement plays a major role," said Emanuel, making his first public comments about the violence since returning to Chicago from a spring break trip with his children.
He said he visited a church in the Chatham neighborhood Thursday evening near the scene of a recent shooting.
"As I said in the church last night, the first word in community policing is 'community.' I see the strength that happens inside a church, and I want that strength out in the neighborhood, in the community, working with the law enforcement community."
Emanuel said the Chicago Police Department is working on a "citywide anti-gang strategy" and he compared it the police crackdown against the Maniac Latin Disciples after the June shooting of two young girls in a Northwest Side park.
Responding to criticism that there aren't enough cops on the streets to prevent the violence, Emanuel pointed out he has moved more police officers into patrol jobs from administrative positions since taking office.
Asked why it took such a violent weekend before he called for a citywide gang crackdown, the mayor said he and police Superintendent Garry McCarthy have actually been working on the initiative for some time.
"(McCarthy) is working through exactly what I've asked, and I talked to him before about it," Emanuel said during a news conference at Curie High School to announce an expansion of college prep programs in public schools. "They're working through a series of issues. I don't expect them to turn something around. I want more than 'we have an anti-gang unit.' I want a strategy that's comprehensive to the problem and the challenge that we face."
Earlier this week, McCarthy said the violent weekend reinforces that Chicago ranks with Los Angeles as the worst in the country with gang woes. He defended the department's anti-violence strategy but acknowledged that officers need to focus more on preventing retaliatory shootings.
McCarthy said beat patrol and gang officers are working on a “gang audit” in the Southwest Side’s Chicago Lawn District—-which saw at least 10 people shot last weekend--to map out where in the district the gang problem is most prevalent. That data will then be disseminated into beat cars, enabling a regular beat cop to know more about the gang problem in the areas they patrol.
Emanuel also added his name to the list of Democratic Party leaders calling for state Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago, to step down in the face of federal bribery charges that came a week before he won his party's nomination for a full term.
"It's an honor to serve the public, and I do not think -- while Mr. Smith won the primary -- that his name should be on the ballot in November, because I think he has already shown a violation of the code of conduct that comes with the honor of serving the public," Emanuel said.
Smith was charged March 13 with accepting a $7,000 cash bribe in return for supporting a bid for a state grant. He was snared in an undercover FBI sting that included an audio recording of Smith allegedly accepting the bribe.
He nonetheless won Tuesday's primary election handily over Tom Swiss, with the help of House Speaker Michael Madigan and others.
Emanuel was also asked about the city's denial of a parade permit for protesters who want to march to McCormick Place convention center on the first day of the NATO summit in Chicago.
The city approved the original request for a May 19 march through the Loop and down Michigan Avenue, timed for the first day of what was to be a G-8 meeting of world economic leaders. But when the G-8 was moved to Camp David, the protesters asked to hold the same march a day later to instead target the first day of the NATO May 20-21 summit.
In denying the group's request for the same route, the city Department of Transportation said "there are not available at the time of the parade a sufficient number of on-duty police officers, or other city employees authorized to regulate traffic, to police and protect lawful participants in the parade and nonparticipants."
Emanuel said the route would need to be changed. "When the application was originally accepted and the route was accepted, if you change the date, the route -- not the destination, the route -- needs to be changed," he said.
The mayor was asked whether the city has enough police to handle the event, and responded "we're going to make sure people have their First Amendment rights protected, and we're also going to make sure we can enforce the law. As I've said repeatedly, those two are not in conflict."
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