Mob attacks pose first challenge for Rahm, McCarthy

June 16, 2011 1:23:53 PM PDT
The recent series of mob-style attacks on Chicago's Near North Side mark the first major hurdles facing Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago's new police superintendent Garry McCarthy.

The issue of public safety came up as the City Council confirmed McCarthy's appointment Wednesday.

Chicago's new top cop has had no choice but to hit the ground running. His first order of business is a real or perceived crime along the high-profile Magnificent Mile.

The nominated acting superintendent did not appear until nearly two hours after the meeting began. That Garry McCarthy would pass Council muster was a foregone conclusion. Still, the first alderman to speak made mention of the new top cop's first major challenge.

"We're having some problems in our downtown area. We have to immediately stop this because it's giving our city a real bad name," said Alderman Ray Suarez, 31st Ward.

Since last weekend, 29 people -- mostly teenagers -- have been arrested for mob-related incidents, including assaults and robberies in the tourism-lucrative downtown areas.

McCarthy says police have already enhanced coverage at public transit stops where groups of young people might enter the Loop and Magnificent Mile shopping districts.

"It involves posting officers at locations where 'chokepoints,' where people will be flowing into the city in large numbers, and hopefully intercepting them as they're coming in," McCarthy said.

Mayor Emanuel questioned the heavy media coverage of the mob attacks.

"There are other incidences that happened over the weekend," said Mayor Emanuel. "How's the coverage of those versus this?" While every alderman who spoke praised Emanuel's McCarthy selection, several wondered if more could be done to preoccupy bored teenagers during the summer.

"We need to make sure that young people have something productive to do, supervised activities, so that they're not engaging in crime," said Alderman Will Burns, 4th Ward.

McCarthy, who rose in the ranks of the New York City Police Department and served most recently as Newark, New Jersey chief, insisted he would not tolerate racial profiling of teenagers visiting downtown.

"I don't care if they're purple. The fact is, they're criminal committing crime, and the fact is, we're going to arrest them," said McCarthy. "It's not about the way somebody looks, it's their behavior, and that's what we're working on." McCarthy said the number of police officers detailed to downtown would increase only marginally. He did say that some would be undercover to help watch people arriving downtown via public transportation.

The mayor and superintendent also questioned the frequent use of the term "flash mob" to describe the groups of offenders. There is no evidence the ones over the weekend or Tuesday night used social media to organize themselves.


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