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Emanuel, McCarthy tout Chicago gang busts

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The mayor and police chief speak Monday at a West Humboldt Park news conference. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)

With Chicago’s annual homicide tally running its highest in years, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police Supt. Garry McCarthy are talking up two big busts of alleged gang members on the city’s West Side.

In one, they say, city cops and federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents targeted a gang called the Four Corner Hustlers and arrested 28 people. In the other, the police went after the Traveling Vice Lords and charged 17 people with drug offenses.

Flanked by Emanuel at a West Humboldt Park news conference, McCarthy said these “takedowns” were just the beginning of police efforts in the territories where the drug rings operated. “If we allow these locations to regress to their previous conditions — if we allow people to buy those narcotics and fuel that narcotics market, which fosters the violence in our neighborhoods — we’re doomed to failure,” McCarthy said.

Emanuel called the police operations part of a comprehensive city approach to violence. He said the approach included increased funding for after-school programs and summer jobs for youths.

The question now is whether neighborhood residents will step up, Emanuel said. “Does the community come outside the church, outside the family room, and reclaim these street corners?”

Politicians, pastors and law-enforcement officials crowded behind Emanuel and McCarthy and applauded them at several points. But the event didn’t satisfy some neighborhood residents who observed.

Annette Britton, a volunteer at John Marshall Metropolitan High School, praised the idea of keeping teenagers occupied this summer but said city officials should do more to provide training and employment for the young-adult population behind most of the violence.

“They talk about gang bangers like they’re foreign invaders,” Britton said. “And the reality [is] they aren’t. They’re somebody’s children. They have become hardened criminals because of a lack of other kinds of opportunities.”

More than 100 homicides have taken place in the city this year, police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said in a statement Monday. That’s 30 more than the homicide count during the same period last year, she said. The department is blaming most of this year’s violence on gangs.

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