The city of Chicago is sharing data about “hot spots” for potential violence over the Memorial Day weekend with churches and nonprofit organizations as part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s effort to engage community leaders in the battle against gun violence on her first weekend leading the city.
Lightfoot discussed the coordinated efforts at a Thursday press conference, where she unveiled her “Our City, Our Safety” initiative, a promise to target potentially violent areas and “flood the zone” with community events, city services and police.
“We know the areas in the city where we believe that there are challenges and we're going to make sure that we are physically present, that we're engaging with people in those neighborhoods and that we're bringing resources into those areas in particular where we have concerns about any kind of conflict,” Lightfoot said. “We've had a lot of conversations — not just with the faith community but also with our community partners — to understand and provide them with data and intelligence on the areas that we think are of concern.”
West Side Rev. Michael Eaddy said he and other faith leaders were committed to working with Lightfoot and the city in an “ongoing collaboration” to combat gun violence. He said volunteers were being trained as “peace coordinators” to help at 60 potential problem areas throughout the city.
Thursday’s event was held outdoors at Ellis Park in Bronzeville, and Lightfoot remarked on the warm sunny weather, saying the success of her anti-violence efforts would be measured by whether all Chicago kids “are actually able to enjoy a beautiful day like this.”
“I think about days like this when I was a kid being out in the streets with my friends riding bikes and just enjoying being together in the warm weather,” Lightfoot said. “I want our kids to be safe in every community. And that's what success looks like. I know that we've got a way to go on that journey. But I want to make sure that we start the building blocks aggressively this weekend.”
The press conference was Lightfoot’s first public safety event since taking office. She was flanked by religious and community leaders, and several agency heads, who took the chance to thank her publicly for involving them in the violence prevention initiative.
In her run for mayor, Lightfoot promised to bring down gun violence while also fostering better police-community relations. In the new initiative, she combines a plan to deploy more than a thousand additional cops over the weekend with a promise that the Chicago Police Department will be engaged in community events to “foster transparency and trust.”
Lightfoot said that community engagement will assuage any concerns that Chicago communities of color feel overpoliced while trying to enjoy the holiday weekend.
“I don't have any concern about that,” Lightfoot said. “Will the police be present? Of course, that's what community members expect and that's what they pay for as taxpayers. But this has got to be an effort not just led by the police department but community members coming together and additional city resources at the ready.”
Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice desk. Follow him @pksmid.