In the face of a rising murder rate Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is defending policing changes he made when he first came into office.
Monthly murder numbers have been consistently rising since Emanuel took over. One of his first moves as mayor was an effort to fulfill a campaign promise to add 1,000 more officers. He dismantled anti-gang units that had flooded crime hotspots and shifted the officers to beat patrols and called them new officers.
Despite this year’s murder rate being 40 percent higher than last year, Emanuel is standing by the strategy.
“By making sure you back up the beat officer, which is the backbone of the police department, you’re actually seeing an overall reduction in crime by 10 percent. That’s a fact. That’s in armed robbery, thefts, across the board,” Emanuel said.
Emanuel says he’s not happy with the rising murder rate, but he says while the old anti-gang units calmed violence in the short term, his plan will result in permanent reductions in violence.
As part of what Emanuel calls a more comprehensive anti-crime strategy, the mayor announced Monday that the city is targeting 200 vacant buildings for possible demolition. The buildings, on Chicago’s south and west sides, are in poor repair and were already on the radar of the buildings department. But they got moved to the top of the hit list when they were identified by the police department as being havens for criminal activity as well.
Emanuel says the city has set aside $4 million to either board up or tear down vacant buildings.
“So whether it’s a vacant building, a liquor store, a convenience store or a street corner, I want to be very clear to the gangs and the members of those gangs. You will not find shelter in the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said.
Emanuel says solving the city’s murder problem is going to take more than just police. He says the city also needs to take care of vacant buildings, work on after school programs, enforce curfews, and push gun laws to address violence.