Mayor, Police Department Ask for Community Help After Deadliest Weekend of 2018

This past weekend was the most violent Chicago has seen all year. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson on Monday expressed anger and frustration at the situation.

Johnson insisted the large police deployment at the Lollapalooza music festival did not strain his force, and instead deflected some of the blame for the dozens of shooting victims to the communities hardest hit. That sentiment is getting strong pushback.

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There was a good deal of finger-pointing and a lot of different answers about what caused this weekend’s jarring spike in violence. City officials had touted lower violence numbers this year, but that all went out the window.

There were officially 12 homicides recorded from Friday to Sunday night, with 66 shooting victims in total – 14 of those victims under the age of 18. And the shootings, as they often are, were limited to four police districts out of the city’s 22, with three (Ogden, Harrison and Austin) on the West Side and another (Gresham) on the South Side.

Police say a lot of the violence occurred at unrelated incidents where shooters fired into large gatherings of people; one at a block club, another at a funeral reception. A visibly frustrated Emanuel, who faces criticism from mayoral opponents over the city’s violence problems, says the city and police can only do so much.

“The offender in almost every situation is known by somebody,” Emanuel said at a morning news conference. “They have a moral responsibility to speak up so there can be legal accountability for those actions.”

In the past, city and police officials would point to lax gun laws and too many guns on the street as an explanation for Chicago’s high homicide rate. Monday, both Emanuel and Johnson lamented the city’s low homicide clearance rate. Less than 20 percent of homicides get solved. And Johnson reflected Emanuel’s frustration, saying that community members know by and large who the perpetrators are, but they are too afraid to come forward with any tips.

“Somebody knows who did it,” Johnson said. “They hold me accountable, they hold the mayor accountable, they hold the city council accountable. I never hear people saying ‘these individuals out on the street need to stop pulling the trigger.”

Some community leaders acknowledge the so-called code of silence on the part of citizens is one part of the problem, although they point to a general distrust of police among the community.

“I think it’s a gross overstatement about what’s going on,” said Rev. Saeed Richardson, policy director with the Community Renewal Society. “The reality is we need a relationship between the community and the police, and it can’t just be on the terms of the police, it has to be on the terms of the community as well. And so if the police want those relationships, they have to go into the neighborhoods and build that trust.”

The Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina, who led an anti-violence march on a portion of the Dan Ryan Expressway last month, says finger-pointing won’t solve anything.

“Communities are underserved, underfunded and underresourced,” Pfleger said. “Number two, we need good law enforcement and cases solved. And that’s not just people not coming forward, we need good detectives. And number three, we need to hold ourselves accountable. We need to get just as angry when cops kill people as when our young people kill each other.”

This weekend violence has garnered national attention. President Donald Trump’s lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, weighed in on the city’s violence in a series of tweets, one incorrectly stating there were 63 murders this weekend, and imploring people to support former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy for mayor.

McCarthy, who Giuliani incorrectly referred to as “Jerry McCarthy” in several tweets, sought to distance himself from Giuliani, saying he’s a proud Democrat.

Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz

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