Hold communities accountable and stop blaming the police
Chicago continues to be ravaged by street gang gun-related violence. Mayor Lightfoot has vowed to address the problem. But only focusing on the Chicago Police is not the answer. More emphasis needs to be placed on the residents living in the communities where the violence occurs to encourage them to identify the gang-bangers and to help the police arrest and jail them. There is a community code of silence that protects many of these gangbangers the police said are known to everyone
By Ray Hanania
Newly elected Mayor Lori Lightfoot vowed during her inauguration speech that “there I no higher calling than restoring safety and peace in our neighborhoods,” designating the fight against rising street gang gun violence one of her top priorities.
“People cannot … and should not … live in neighborhoods that resemble a war zone. Enough of the shootings. Enough of the guns. Enough of the violence,” Lightfoot said during her speech.
“Let’s unite in our response to the biggest challenge we face: the epidemic of gun violence that devastates families, shatters communities, buries dreams and holds children hostage to fear in their own homes. It inflicts lifelong trauma that spreads through our communities like a virus.”
But only weeks later, Chicago has seen an astonishing surge of violence, including one weekend in which 52 people were injured and eight were killed as a result of gang related gun violence.
Lightfoot met with Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and his top commanders on Monday June 3 and lectured them to either “take the crime seriously” or “leave the force.” Lightfoot even went so far as to suggest that if the police don’t take crime seriously, “they’re in the wrong jobs.”
Lightfoot said she would repeat the meetings each week, calling them “accountability Mondays,” suggesting the burden for the violence falls on their shoulders.
I disagree. Blaming the Police for street gang violence is a “cop out” – no pun intended.
During her inauguration, Lightfoot also promised a broader scope of response:
“We will develop a new, proactive strategy in partnership with the communities hit hardest by the scourge of gun violence. All of our stakeholders must be committed to this work,” Lightfoot said. “This is not a challenge that can be solved by law enforcement alone, nor will we ever place the blame on people in communities who are under siege.”
Yet during the past two weekends of astonishing levels of violence, Lightfoot spent all of her effort lecturing the police, not saying one word to the residents in the neighborhoods where the violence took place, or challenging the Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who is by far one of the most incompetent prosecutors Cook County has ever elected.
Police Commander Johnson vowed his police would take the violence seriously noting that they know who these criminals are. But he pointed out a flaw that traces directly back to Foxx.
“We know who a lot of these people are,” Johnson said. “And how do we know that? Because we keep arresting them over and over and over again.”
Rather than announcing a crackdown on lenient bonding of the arrested suspects, Foxx blathered out a PR spin deflecting the blame on others, not surprising considering her mishandling of the false claims of racist, homophobic violence by Jussie Smollett.
“Since January 2019, 72% of gun related cases referred to us by the Chicago Police Department have received a D bond (monetary bail) or No Bond,” Foxx blathered.
What Foxx is acknowledging is that she has released 28 percent of the gun offenders, and that is unacceptable.
What Lightfoot needs to do is back the Police. Stand by them. Defend them from critics like Foxx and activists in the crime-plagued neighborhoods. Put the blame where it belongs, on the backs of residents in the crime-ridden neighborhoods who refuse to cooperate with police and who blame the police. Lightfoot should be lecturing the parents of these criminals and asking the tough question? Why is your son carrying a weapon, engaged in criminal activity, and using drugs? Why are parents of these street gang criminals not being held accountable? Neither by Lightfoot nor by Foxx.
If the police know who these criminals are, as Johnson declared, there is no doubt that the people who live in the neighborhoods know who these criminals are, too.
What Chicago’s crime-ridden neighborhoods do not need is to empower the “community code of silence” in which parents and relatives of gang members remain silent, until one of their criminal relatives is killed and they then stand with sleazy lawyers demanding millions in lawsuit compensation for the killing of their street-gang relatives.
Obviously, not every person killed is a gang member, but far too many are.
Until parents and community activists are held accountable for their failure to speak out and confront the killers they know, until they stop blaming the gang violence on the police, and until they break the “community code of silence” that prevents neighborhood activists from identifying these known gangbangers, Chicago’s crime-ridden neighborhoods will remain crime-ridden.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Visit his personal website at www.Hanania.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column originally ran in the Southwest News Newspaper group June 12, 2019.)
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