Chicago mayor outlines plan to battle violence epidemic

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled a plan Thursday to tackle Chicago's gun violence epidemic in front of about 200 people at Malcolm X College. (WLS)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled a plan Thursday to tackle Chicago's gun violence epidemic in front of about 200 people at Malcolm X College.

It was the mayor's most anticipated speech since his public apology for the police shooting of Laquan McDonald. The mayor's office carefully selected 200 specially-invited guests to be in the live audience for his speech.

The 40-minute speech also included familiar public safety talking points: tougher gun laws, police-community cooperation, mentoring programs and summer jobs for at-risk teens.

The loudest applause came when the mayor repeated his pledge to hire nearly 1,000 more cops.

"I think this was a difficult and complicated task, to talk about decades of a systemic issue and address it in one speech. I think there is more to do. I think the mayor said it himself in the remarks, there's still more to do. What we heard today was a strategy for policing us and what we need to hear is an equal strategy for investing in us. I think there's more that needs to be said and we need to have as high a priority on investing in communities as we have in policing communities," said City Treasurer Kurt Summers.

WATCH: Mayor Rahm Emanuel's full speech
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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's full speech on public safety and violence.

Shootings and murders, mostly in Chicago's African-American neighborhoods, are at nationally high levels along with the city's black unemployment rate.

"What's needed is resources. Jobs. Jobs, housing," said Stan McKinney, West Side resident.

"I think this is not something that happened last year. This has been going on a long, long time," said Shari Runner of the Chicago Urban League.

While the mayor promised $36 million to expand a mentoring program, he vowed the city would find money to pay for more police.

"This fight is for all of Chicago because it is Chicago's future that is at stake," Emanuel said.

"One of the things I heard that was kind of new was identifying the people we refer to as perpetrators as also victims. There was a portion of his speech where he talked about them being victims of the trauma in their community, and I think that's something we all need to do, to have programs where we compete against gangs for the attention of our youth and our community, and I thought that was good," said State Senator Kwame Raoul.

Several dozen protesters gathered outside Malcolm X College. Many of the protesters are familiar faces who have been involved in protests across the city. They were not impressed by the mayor's speech.

"At the end of the day he didn't present real solutions. He's not targeting the root problems that we're facing in our communities. He doesn't even come to our communities, so how would he know? He wants to come to Malcolm X and give this whole speech to act like he cares, but he doesn't," said Ja'mal Green.

Che "Rhymfest" Smith watched the mayor's speech in person.

"The mayor said some good things and I think he said some things that need to be worked on," he said.

The mayor also promised to pour millions into mentoring programs like Becoming a Man, known as BAM, which one alumnus praised.

"For me, it helped me a lot with self-determination, I was determined to, like, stay in school," said Dequan Williams.

Father Michael Pfleger was invited to watch the speech in person but he chose instead to watch it from home with other community leaders, former gang members turned mentors and community activists instead.

"We got to do mentoring of those in the communities who feel forgotten and abandoned. Too many brothers in our communities feel like they're throwaways," Pfleger said.

City Commissioner and former mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia also expressed disappointment in the lack of specifics in the mayor's speech.

"What I didn't hear are new initiatives to bring real and substantial economic development opportunities to the neighborhoods that live most of the violence and despair in Chicago. People need jobs, there wasn't much talk about how those new jobs are going to be created," Garcia said.

According to an August Economic Policy Institute report Illinois has the highest African American unemployment rate in the country, with most of the state's black population living in Chicago and its suburbs.

"Violence is just a symptom of a problem. The problem consists of jobs, economic development, infrastructure," said Chicagoan Jonathan Todd.

Those whose families have been impacted by violence were also watching.

Precious Land, 27, was shot while driving to a laundromat in Lawndale; one of the nearly 70 people shot in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend. The shooting left her paralyzed from the neck down. Land is unable talk, is on a feeding tube and unable to breathe on her own. Her mother said the mayor's speech gave her some measure of comfort.

"I liked his speech. I felt that he felt, he was feeling all of our pain, all of us innocent mothers that's got kids that got killed or got hurt," Stacey Turner said.

Land's shooting remains unsolved, but Turner said she doesn't blame police.

"I don't blame police. I only blame the young man who shot my daughter, whoever he is," she said.

The mother of Alexandria Imani Burgos, who was killed by a stray bullet, agreed with the mayor that there must be an alternative to gangs.

"A lot of them need love. These kids have a chance to turn their lives around, put down the gun," said Milagros Burgos.

"I like the part about them getting jobs and getting them off the streets and helping them. I liked that most about it," Turner said.

Precious Land's family set up a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for her long-term medical care and relocation.


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Many Chicagoans agree with Emanuel that job creation is one of the keys to stopping the violence.

Many Chicagoans agree with Emanuel that job creation is one of the keys to stopping the violence.

Chatham resident Star Bush looked for a job and found one at a corner store, but knows a lot of people in her South Side neighborhood are still unemployed.

"People feel defeated," Bush said. "They feel like they have no other option but to be on the streets sell drugs and do crime."

Bush said she blames the lack of jobs and neighborhood development for making the gang and gun violence worse in the area.

The Chicago Urban League reported that high unemployment rates among minorities are part of the problem, with 47 percent of people from 22 to 24 are out of school and out of work.

"The negative impact is that you have people who turn to the street, to the underground economy," said Andrew Wells of the Chicago Urban League. "They join gangs, they sell drugs, because they have to make ends meet."
Victor Love, the president of the 79th Street Business Corridor, said a gang war in the area is claiming more than just lives.

"We've seen businesses open up in January and close by March due to the conditions of the community," said Love.


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People are wondering if early childhood intervention can help curb Chicago violence.

The Carole Robertson Center for Learning has been offering support to children from low-income families from the West and Southwest sides since 1976. They said they know this helps to make not only the families safer, but all of Chicago's communities safer.

At the center, infants get nurturing and support, but more importantly they will have the same child care provider until they are three.

"Attachment is huge for young children," Cerathel Burnett, CEO, said. "If they don't have the ability to attach to a significant adult in their life, they go through life feeling rejected very easily."
The Center runs several programs. The largest is in North Lawndale and Little Village. The non-profit prepares children for school and offers support to the kids and their families.

The Center's CEO says they are seeing evidence of families that did not get support early with the violence in some of Chicago's communities. A toddler who can't communicate and is frustrated trickles into not being prepared for school and could possibly go into adulthood.

The challenge with this type of option is that it takes money, time and investment. But educators and advocates at the center said it's an investment worth it for everyone in the long run.


Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson made an announcement Wednesday about the police hiring blitz.

"I'm confident that these added resources will make us better and give us the capacity we need to address our crime problems across the city," Johnson said.

He joined ABC7 News This Morning Thursday to speak on the effect he hopes the hiring surge will have on the department and their strategy on the street.

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CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson joined ABC7 News This Morning to address the department's plan to hire nearly 1,000 new officers and the mayor's plan to tackle gun vioelnce.

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